Alice and Jerry Basic Reading Program
Are you looking for stories that will foster a lifelong love of reading? That's the testimony of one "graduate" of the Alice and Jerry Reading Program - a grade school student in the 60's now rejoicing in the re-printing of this winsome series. These books are pure mid-20th century Midwest and absolutely, delightfully so. No political correctness here - but there is bountiful evidence of a more carefree childhood lifestyle, a freedom and innocence that seems to have been lost somewhere along the line. Originally published in 1957, the stories are full of the wonderful experiences of children who are happy, interested in life and those around them, and sometimes just a bit naughty. The children and the adults in their lives are involved in the everyday joys of pre-computerized, pre-nanny-state, pre-regulated America. Be careful! You might enjoy the stories more than your children.
You won't find any intensive phonics in this series - or even much phonics at all - but you will find a carefully structured reading program that provides an increasing vocabulary plus a systematic presentation with a planned absorption of new words. At first glance, you might decide to have your student just read through the books in order. While I'm sure there would be value in that approach, you would be in danger of under-appreciating this program.
There is a pattern to the books - and even to the stories within the books. First of all, it's important to note that not all the books in the series have been reprinted. Secondly, although the books each have a grade designation, reprints appear to have been given new names different from the originals of this series (referenced in the Word Lists in the back of each book). Thirdly, the multiple books in the early grades each have a different purpose. As we try to unpack all that, let's look first at the Word Lists located at the end of each book. This list shows the words that are introduced and developed in the book along with the page number on which the word first appears. Comments are included with these Word Lists to indicate how many words are newly introduced in the book. It's in these comments that the books are referenced with new names. The comments and Word Lists appear to be part of the original publication so I assume the rename designations were important to the program. I've included these name changes parenthetically in the list below.
New words are introduced in a specific order. In the Primers and Readers there are "Presentation Units" and "Absorption Units." Each unit is a series of stories and there are multiple units in each book (6 - 10 in the early books). The largest portion of new words is introduced in the Presentation Units. Then, in the Absorption Units, fewer new words are introduced and the student is given the opportunity to read additional stories utilizing the new words from the previous presentation units. So, the student is constantly practicing and strengthening new vocabulary, alternating between the Presentation and Absorption units. Deceptively simple, this routine gives the student the opportunity for continual review and repetition.
Stories in the Grade 1 Day In and Day Out have 3-4 word sentences and are typically one-half page of type, coupled with a half-page picture. Font size is large -about 18 points - and classic style. Towards the end of the book, sentences increase to 5-9 words with 10 sentences or so on some pages. There is a full page of text every 2-3 pages. In each of grades 1-3, there are three readers. The first book for each grade level can be used in four ways for different student purposes: as a quick review of the previous year's vocabulary; as independent reading for accomplished readers; to provide new challenges for average readers; and as a regular teaching book for less proficient students. The second book in a grade's sequence presents the bulk of the new vocabulary. The third book is a parallel reader designed to apply vocabulary to new content and to develop confidence, power, and pleasure in reading by supplying content well within the range of a pupil's reading ability.
Illustrations are delightful and plentiful, especially in the lower level books. Even in the upper level books, however, where illustrations take a backseat to the text, they still engage the reader. Sweet, nostalgic and colorful: they remind you of a gentler, slower, more friendly and peaceful life.
The Fourth and Fifth Reader are special. By this time the student is on his way to reading independently and these readers (one per grade level) provide quality information as well as practice in their stories. The Fourth Reader - Singing Wheels - is about life in an earlier time - pioneer days, to be exact. In addition to the same enjoyable (although less numerous) illustrations, the book is full of little educational drawings of animals, equipment, etc. It's sort of like a living museum wrapped up in a book, reminding me of Greenfield Village in MI. The Fifth Reader - Engine Whistles - contains stories that trace the development of transportation and inventions. This one also has small drawings of the components of different types of inventions such as various automobile parts (i.e. lamps or horns).
As a reading program, this has much to offer. There is a great opportunity for vocabulary exposure and mastery as well as out-loud reading fluency (stories the whole family will enjoy). More than just another reading program, however, this series is a walk through history. From the snapshots of everyday life in the 50s and 60s, to the historical journeys of the upper levels, this series contributes to an understanding of our American culture and heritage. Note: The order of readers listed below is the recommended order of progression. In addition, some of the readers required for the original series are not available at this time. ~ Janice