Historical Society Inc.
Mother of the Dick and Jane Reader
Illustrated by: Eleanor Campbell
A Clinton County native, Zerna died in 1981. Miss Sharp never wrote any of the stories for the books, she did however name the characters and decide what clothing they should wear (styles were picked from Sears and Wards catalogues). People would submit stories or story lines and Zerna would select the story or idea, illustrators would go to work on the characters and she would oversee the layouts for each story.
Zerna began her teaching career in Hillisburg, Indiana.
then went to Kirklin, Indiana and taught for over ten years. She moved to
LaPorte, Indiana and stayed until 1924 when she went to work for Scott-Foresman Publishing
Company. It was while walking on the beach of Lake Michigan she observed
children at play. OH! Look! OH, Oh, look . She knew what she wanted in a
The Dick and Jane Readers were a huge success. The writing format was
easy. Only one new word would appear on the page and every third page the words
were repeated. Each book had large color pictures with Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff,
Spot, Mother, Father or Tim the teddy bear in an activity.
All of her life Zerna referred to Dick and Jane as her children. She was proud of her family.
Claims were made that Jane and Mother were subservient to Dick and Father, and that
the readers were unrealistic for children in lower economical circumstances .
Miss Sharp an independent, successful businesswoman and the fact that women of her same success attacked her outraged her.
After her retirement Miss Sharp made frequent visits to the Company she worked for and was to shape reading for generations of children. The books were published in five languages and went around the world. Miss Sharp at the age of 85 took a trip to Spain; she had a zest for life and learning.
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