The Ladybird Key
Words Reading Scheme - Peter and Jane books 42 titles published
between 1940 and 1980
1964 Ladybird launched their world renowned
Key Words Reading Scheme series.
Commonly known as the Peter and Jane
books, this series was to be used by parents and schools
throughout the UK.
100 million copies have been sold round the world.
author, William Murray, was an educational adviser
for a borstal and, later, head of what was then
called a "school for the educationally subnormal"
During the 1950s Murray did some research with an
educational psychologist, a Professor McNally from
Manchester University. They worked on written material
and speech, using a Grundig tape recorder, and established
that 12 words make up a quarter of everything we
speak, read and write."
In 1962 they published a 41-page pamphlet on their
research - click on the image opposite for details.
Murray and McNally also concluded that 100 words account
for half and 300 words make up three-quarters of our verbal
output. Ladybird emphasises this message in the introduction
to every Key Words book before Peter and Jane and Mummy
and Daddy go on to repeat those words at every opportunity.
The Key Word books were devided into 3 grades, grade a,
grade b and grade c, with each having 12 books.
Although the first Key Words books were published in 1964,
it wasn’t until 1968 that the Reading Scheme was
officially launched – it was important for Ladybird
to be able to release the Scheme in it’s entirety
(36 books), and therefore the books were put in a stockroom
until all the later titles were written and published.
Some samples of the artwork in the Key Words books