The Victorian Readers

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The Victorian Readers, consisting of eight books, were commissioned by the Victorian Education Department in 1928, during a period of economic depression and cuts to education. The readers (preliminaries) were used until 1930 and compiled by reading committees -- the junior sub-committee, consisting of four women, and the senior sub-committee, made up of six men.

After the First World War, the Victorian Education Department formulated plans for a new set of readers for the Infant Department. These books were all skillfully illustrated by Marjorie Howden (1911 – 1988). The text was written by Betty Dorice Sommerville (1921-2008), a teacher at Caulfield South Primary school. There is no mention of her role in the authority statements for the books: John and Betty, Playmates or Holidays.

The books were created to teach reading in accordance with modern reading theories such as eye movement, perception, comprehension, and reading readiness. ‘John and Betty’ was to be used after six months during the first year of school. ‘Playmates’ was used the second year of school, and ‘Holidays’ as the Grade 2 book during the third year of school.

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