Receiving this 'lovely' cake tin and matching tray for Easter from my sister (who always does a great line in ironic, tongue-in-cheek gifts) whooshed me back to the early 60s, when my mother, a former nursery and infant school teacher, decided that it was high time that I applied myself to learning to read, aged 3, so that I was well ahead of everyone else by the time I started school. As befitted my child genius status, naturally.
So off she went to W H Smith's in Reading to purchase a set of the brand new Ladybird Key Words reading books . And thus began my formal education.
Here is Peter.
Here is Jane.
Look at us.
We are always good.
We are never bad.
We are boring.
We are very, very boring.
Here is Father. He cleans the car.
Here is Mother. She cleans the house.
Look, you are only 4 but we can make you yawn.
Do you like to read?
No, if all I have to read is Peter and Jane, I do not like to read.
See, this book is fun!
No, it is not fun, I do not like to read this book, I want to play.
One day there will be Biff and Chip and Kipper.
And then reading will be fun.
Peter and Jane were always 'having fun' - a kind of fun which consisted chiefly of wearing a collar and tie while playing in the garden and being terrifically well behaved and polite ALL the time.
Fathers, naturally enough, smoked pipes, read newspapers, and drove home in the evening to find their supper on the table and their nicely scrubbed and polished offspring being good and . . . having fun.
It was a world which pretty accurately reflected aspects of my own life at the time in many ways, except that I didn't call my mother Mother. And I don't remember her actually wearing a hat to go to the shops. Headscarf often, yes, but never a hat. (Grandma did, though. Always!)
Still, I did in fact learn to read from these books - and thus circumvented the horror that was ITA (don't get my mother started on that!), to which my infant school peers were subjected and from which some of them claim never to have recovered.
The theory behind Peter and Jane was perfectly sound, and has recently been revisited and applauded by academics . But though I feel a certain pang of nostalgia looking through Play With Us and Sunny Days again, I'm afraid they mostly put me in mind of the clipping below, which was doing the email rounds a while ago, which purports to be from a copy of Good Housekeeping in 1955 and certainly has the ring of truth about it (but turned out on further investigation to be a hoax ) (click to enlarge):