Peter and Jane - the Key Word Reading Scheme

The Key Word Reader series was, is, has been Ladybird Books best-selling series.  It first appeared in 1964, is still in print today and sells worldwide.

 Although it might seem an obvious move for Ladybird to make with the benefit of hindsight, at the time there was a lot of reluctance for the company, then called 'Wills and Hepworth' to venture so deeply into the educational market.  The series consisted of 36 books, all of which had to be prepared in advance and therefore represented a huge leap of financial faith by the Ladybird board of directors.  The man with the vision was Douglas Keen, an employee and rising star within the company; the creator of the reading scheme was William Murray (who, together with McNally, had earlier devised a new approach to the teaching of literacy called The Key Words to Reading.


It should also be remembered that the success of the reading scheme was in no small part due to the effectiveness of the full-page illustrations, mainly produced by Martin Aitchison and Harry Wingfield.


There were 36 books in the series; the books were numbered 1 - 12 and subdivided into 'a', 'b', and 'c', where new vocabularly was introduced in the 'a' books and recycled/consolidated in the 'b' books.  The 'c' books usually focused on writing and phonics.


Although the books have been in print for over 40 years, there have been a few changed along the way.  The following gallery pages illustrate the main changes that have taken place in the covers and artwork over this period.