Monday, 3 February 2014

Ladybird, Ladybird

There has been much hilarity chez moi ce soir stemming from a quick visit Andy and I made to our local town museum this morning in order to see the new exhibition dedicated to the lovely Ladybird Book. You know, the ones with proper pictures in them, and proper writing with proper spelling and grammar and punctuation. All very nice and proper. And innocent. No Peppa Pig kicking off and being a naughty role model here. No answering back to the adults in the name of child-cantered learning. 

Anyway... (and definitely before I get started on Michael Gove and his latest 'idea'...grrrrr!) 

...we oohed and aahed our way around, going, 'I remember that one!' whilst pointing at pictures of The Enormous Turnip and Rapunzel and Bunnykins Picnic Party. It is surprising how certain images from childhood make such a huge impression on our memories as to be recalled so quickly after more than 40 years. Like the one with the witch cutting Rapunzel's long golden plait, and Rumpelstiltskin with his foot stuck in the floor. (Apparently, so Andy said because he read an article about it, the whole Rumpelstiltskin story is full of phallic analogy. I said to hush, I did not wish my childhood memory to be besmirched by some angry feminist reading of an innocent fairy story. We blamed Angela Carter. I taught an Angela Carter text to some sixth formers once. They were very shocked and very embarrassed. Especially the boys.) 

Anyway, we got talking, as you do, about other books we remembered from our childhoods. I still have my Pookie the Rabbit books, complete with my own hand drawn illustrations via the medium of wax crayon and stick people. Andy fondly remembered the How and Why series, which I had never heard of but then they were American so were probably banned from my very provincial primary school because of the spelling 'color' and the use of the word 'faucet' instead of 'tap.'

And then I got all sentimental about the I.t.a books.

'The what?' said Andy.

'I.t.a,' said I. 'It is how I learned to read. Pam, Proody and Pip. The Initial Teaching Alphabet.' And I found it on the interwebbly (and was rather shocked to see it still in use in some places) and showed him.

The Initial Teaching Alphabet was invented by Mr Pitman of Pitman Short Hand fame, as a revolutionary way of teaching children to read. Some of the letters corresponded with the standard alphabet but there were additional 'figures' that represented blends of letter sounds and diphthongs, and thus resembled Egyptian hieroglyphics. But my primary school used it and I remember my Mum getting into a bit of a stew when I was around 7 years old and very proficient in I.t.a about how I was going to make the transition to 'the proper alphabet' and would I ever be able to spell properly? 

Well, I did and I can. In fact, I think because I learned through this weird phonetic-style method I've never had any trouble spelling. But who knows? P.R.O.P.E.R.L.Y.

Anyway, both Andy and Heather declared that I.t.a as a reading method was little better than a form of infant torture. 'How did you ever learn to read using THAT?' they both shrieked, pointing at the alphabet images I had found to show them. 

'Because I am a genius?' I wanted to say, but didn't because no-one likes a show-off. 

What were your favourite childhood books? Were you a Ladybird, too? 


Andy said...

I don't think I "shrieked"!

Denise said...

In my mind of fiction you did. For dramatic effect. Hush!

Olly said...

My 'best' Christmas present this year was purchased in a charity shop by my sister. It's a copy of 'The Tale of Downy Duckling' from which book she taught me to read umpty-tum years ago. I love Ladybird books!

Denise said...

Downy Duckling was on display at the museum, Olly!

Countryside Tales said...

I read this last night, but wanted some time to think about it before I left a comment. I was brought up on Lavender's Blue, the Mog books, Little Grey Rabbit (I still have my original small person's copy of Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas, Beatrix Potter, Winnie The Pooh. When I was old enough to read properly I loved the Silver Brumby Series and the Animals Of Farthing Wood, both of which L also adored and read for himself. Good idea for a blog post, I might shamelessly borrow it... XX

Vera said...

I don't remember the books I read when very young. I was a post war baby so perhaps there weren't any around. I can't remember any books being in our house either. But I do remember a Mr Evans throwing chalk at me because I was not paying attention!

Denise said...

I remember my children loving The Animals of Farthing Woods, CT, so that book series must have had a good, long run! Beatrix Potter was, of course, another happy memory favourite. I even had a long playing vinyl record with the Tales of Jemima Puddle Duck, Two Bad Mice, Jeremy Fisher and Pigling Bland on it, being read by Wendy Craig! In fact, I think I still have it somewhere in the loft!

Now what I want to know, Vera, is did Mr Evans hit or miss? My English teacher, Mr Cauldwell, was a bit of a chalk thrower. Can't do it now, of course. Teachers would be charged with assault.

Chel @ Sweetbriar Dreams said...

I loved Ladybird books and my favourite was Snow White and Rose Red. I still remember how I was determined to read it to myself as soon as I could. x