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The BBC's Francesca Kasteliz
"The one thing the publishers refused to change was the names"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 13:07 GMT
Return of Janet and John
janet and john look-alikes - Hannah Moxom and Tre Pearce - reading
Janet and John look-alikes enjoyed the new versions
Modernised versions of the educational children's books, Janet and John, are being re-published after 25 years to reflect life in the 21st century.

The books were a popular way to help children learn to read in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, but were later criticised as stereotypical, sexist and outdated and fell out of use.

Janet and John 2001
The new-look books will feature black as well as white characters
But the publishers claim the old stereotypes have been broken down in the new versions - and that Janet and John are portrayed as children of today.

Some of Janet and John's friends now come from different ethnic backgrounds and not all the characters live in a nuclear family.

Guiding principles

The artwork shows that Janet and John have an up-to-date sense of fashion and attend a school which is equipped with modern technology.

We hope we've not gone overboard on political correctness

Andy Riddle, publisher
The pair go to the shops, to the park, to the swimming pool, even to car boot sales, and one of Janet's favourite hobbies is football.

The authors have stuck to the original principles of stories based on real life, showing Janet and John, their family and friends, in familiar situations.

There is still the same focus on the progressive introduction of the words that make up the English language.

The publishers of the new titles, Star Kids, said that while the new learning scheme had been designed for use by parents at home, they hoped it would also be used in schools.

old-style janet and john
The former books were dismissed in the mid-70s as out-of-date
Speaking at the launch of the new series in London, the company's marketing director, Andy Riddle, said today's parents were the generation which had grown up with Janet and John.

"We didn't change the names to more modern ones because of the resonance of Janet and John," Mr Riddle said.


Research carried out by the company, before buying the rights to Janet and John, found over 70% of parents with children aged up to seven were familiar with the names, he added.

"We hope we've struck the right balance and not gone overboard on political correctness.

the new Janet and John
The new John sports trendy baggy trousers and Janet wears hiking boots
"What we really want to do is to reflect the society that UK children are living in today.

"We are no longer harping back to the 1940s and 1950s idyll of the nuclear family," he said.

Star Kids has produced a series of 33 new Janet and John books, including 24 activity books covering reading, writing and maths for children aged four to seven.

Television presenter and mother-of-two Emma Forbes said she was delighted to support the new-look Janet and John.

"It's fun, easy to use, brightly coloured and what kids today feel they want to interact with, making learning fun," she said.

Original author

The original author of the Janet and John titles was Rona Munro from New Zealand.

janet and john look-alikes - Hannah Moxom and Tre Pearce
Modern-day Janet and John look-alikes launched the new series
She has now died, but her two daughters - alongside educationalists - have been involved with Star Kids in the production of the new books.

Munro started her career as a teacher in her home country and later married Mackenzie Wood of publishers, Nisbet, the company which discovered the American reading scheme - upon which Janet and John is based - Alice and Jerry.

Unimpressed with the first drafts of the English text, she felt challenged to do better.

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02 Nov 00 | Education
Bedtime story 'under threat'
02 Nov 00 | UK
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