A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Friday, December 31, 2010

My Weekly Reader and Scholastic Books

A weekly highlight of my elementary school career was the arrival of that week's Weekly Reader.   My Weekly Reader was a little newspaper designed specifically for kids.  It was full of articles about current news events as well as stories about life in other countries and other cultures.  While most of us kids usually found something else to do when the news came on TV, we read with great fascination the stories in our Weekly Reader

Our Weekly Reader time was also a somewhat relaxing time in the classroom.  The teachers usually allowed us to read the paper at our own pace, so the classroom was quiet and peaceful.  Having been a teacher myself, I realize now that this was probably more for their benefit than ours, but nevertheless it was quite pleasant.  I think this probably set the stage for my daily ritual now of reading two newspapers.  Of course, to justify the expenditure of valuable class time, we were always assigned the task of completing the study questions on the last page.
 The study question page consisted of questions to gauge your comprehension of what you had read.  Looking at this sample page makes me realize the actual academic value of the exercise.  The questions required some higher-level thinking, and the vocabulary words were important words that were probably too current to appear in any textbook. 

I also remember that about every six weeks or so, Weekly Reader would send out a reading comprehension test that would be administered to the class.  I never excelled at sports or music or much else, but I was flat good at those reading comprehension tests.  But not quite good enough; my score was always second to that of my classmate Doug Cottrell.  I was never able to beat Doug's score, no matter how hard I tried.  But, like Avis, I tried harder.
 Even more exciting that the Weekly Reader was our occasional book order from Scholastic Books.  The teacher would send off an order about every six weeks.  I would eagerly peruse the flyer advertising the current book selection, making my best effort to keep it reasonable.  The books cost from fifty cents to a dollar, I think, and my dear Mama always allowed me to order a few books.

Sweeter than any flower, I think, is the aroma that wafts up from a brand new Scholastic book that has never been opened before.  I would take those books home and devour them, and even carried one with me back to school to read when I got a chance.  The little books were extremely well-written, and included titles of new books as well as classics from long ago.  Regrettably, I was normally not interested in the great works of fiction from the past, but eagerly purchased the latest from my favorite series like Encyclopedia Brown or Danny Dunn.  The Encyclopedia Brown books featured the exploits of a young genius named Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown, who was an individual of considerable intellect who used his intelligence to

 figure out obvious clues to solve mysteries. Danny Dunn, likewise, was a bright young lad who had a knack for inventing incredible helpful devices such as homework machines.

I also greatly enjoyed reading about Homer Price.  The Homer Price books were actually written back in the 1940's by Robert McCloskey.  I loved McCloskey's humor and felt a sense of companionship with Homer, who often found himself in rather awkward and challenging situations, like trying to figure out how to turn off a donut machine that had gone rogue.

A particular favorite of mine was a book called Follow My Leader.  It was the story of a young boy who was outside with some of his friends from the neighborhood who had made a homemade firecracker.  The firecracker ended up exploding in the face of the boy in the story, resulting in blindness.  This great little book tells how he got his life back with the help of his guide dog, Leader.

As far as I know, Weekly Reader and Scholastic Books are still around today.  As a matter of fact, when I was elementary principal at Waldron, the teachers wanted to switch from Weekly Reader to Scholastic News.  Because of my strong commitment to Weekly Reader from my childhood, it took a lot of convincing to get me to go along with the idea! 

I hope kids still read books for enjoyment.  I know they have a lot of distractions today, and a lot of fun things to play with, but Mama's and Daddy's who foster a love of reading do a great service for their children.  Everybody should get to experience the pleasure of reading a book that's so good you can't put it down.


  1. I remember these little newspapers. I also remember a sort of mascot that Weekly Reader had - a dog named Happy. I would like to see a picture of that dog again. My dog reminds me of Happy.

  2. I stumbled upon this while searching for a photo of the "Weekly Reader" of my youth. (It's probably my imagaination, but I swear I remember that cover!) Thanks for taking the time to write about what we were reading back then; I enjoyed it very much.

  3. I hated it when I "outgrew" this time period in my life. Thankfully, when my kids were little I had an excuse to order & reread some of my favorite authors/books. I've read the "Little House On The Prairie" series several times. Books have always had a Large part in my life. Mother could never understand why I didn't want to go outside & play.

  4. AnonymousJune 15, 2012

    Weekly Reader is still around! I've subscribed for my classrooms since the 70's and the kids enjoy it. In fact, they fuss if they see it and we don't get to it quick enough! We also have a book sale twice a year with Scholastic books.

  5. annette masoJuly 24, 2012

    I grew up with the weekly reader,couldn't wait for it to come to my class room each week. It was so much fun with happy,and we learned the current events .So much inside a little I called news paper for kids .wish I had at least one of my old ones..just to have a peek once again.thank you weekly reader for making my school years as happy and interesting as it was.you will be missed.sincere and loving thoughts to you and especially a great happy Thank you..

  6. My mom ,now 88 wrote for W.R. in the 60s and early 70s.She is limited in many ways now but I remind her that she helped thousands of young people develop a love of reading.I plan on sharing these comments with her...

    1. What a wonderful comment; thank you so much for sharing that with us. There are countless thousands of people who would love to be able to thank her personally!

  7. AnonymousMay 10, 2014

    Didn't the company also release a Weekly Reader Book Club flyer on a regular basis? Does anybody remember if the book club flyer came with the Weekly Reader/My Weekly Reader newsletters or were the book club flyers mailed to schools & families separately?

  8. I especially enjoyed My Weekly Reader's science supplements. I always subscribed to its summertime edition and remember checking our mailbox for each issue to arrive. I still have issues covering space exploration developments in my personal library.