Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Ladybird Books in ITA



I received this message last week:

"I am trying to find a book to buy written in ITA. I learned ITA at school from 1965 to about 1968. I think it must have been pretty new then because when I went up to the junior school, there were only 6 of us who read ITA. They had to split the class and write everthing twice, once in ITA and again in English"

I replied:
Yes, it was a very odd period in British education - a really mad-cap idea that was dominant for several years and then dropped rapidly from favour. Although I was born in 1964 so must be a bit younger than you, I managed to escape ITA, although my cousins (about 6 years younger than me and so learning to read in the early 70s, were taught using ITA and still blame it to this day for their problems with spelling! So that would span about a decade.


If you have no idea what ITA is - and many people look completely blank if I mention it - this picture above should give you an idea.



Ladybird were only following a widespread initiative in issuing books in the ITA alphabet; I remember most children's publishers doing the same.

As I say, I had always thought of ITA as an experiment of the early 1970s and considered that my cousins were 'hit' with ITA as a result of being that bit younger than me. But clearly this correspondent was a little older than me and she was taught to ITA. That must be the case, thinking about it, because I have heard of Ladybird books in ITA with dustwrappers - so earlier than 1965.

So what dictated the decision to adopt ITA? Why did some schools adopt it and others did not over quite a number of years? And why did it sink so quickly and almost without a trace? If anyone knows, do get in touch.

40 comments:

Bigland said...

I learned I.T.A. somewhere between 1976-1978 in a school in Rochford, Essex. Normal reading and writing was referred to as T.O., though I can't remember what that stood for. The local library even had a special section of I.T.A. books.

My mum tells me I was kept back from progressing to T.O. by my teacher, even though I was reading normal books at home. The teacher advised against this!

I was finally moved off I.T.A. a few weeks before moving house and school. It was only a distance of 5-10 miles, but seemed much further at the age of 6. I was amazed to find everyone in my new class was on T.O., and figured they must all be very clever. It took a while for me to discover they never learned I.T.A.

My spelling has always been excellent (he says, checking through his comment...), but I wonder what might have happened had I been kept on I.T.A. until I moved.

I still remember some of the weird letter forms, but most people I meet have never seen anything like it! Thanks for the nostalgia trip, and proof I didn't make it up.

Helen said...

Thanks for this. I wonder what T.O was meant to stand for? Why is there so little information about ITA today? It seems to be seen as a bit of a skeleton in the British literacy cupboard; something of an embarrassment.

I never learnt ITA so, although I can't spell for toffee, I can't use it as an excuse.

Anonymous said...

I was taught ITA in the early 70's, at Christchurch Infant school in Dorset (name and shame) and experienced many of the blank looks from variuos people i've mentioned it to over the years.
I would love to know where I can buy the Sally and Paul books i remember so well.
I've enjoyed looking at the text and it all came flooding back to me. That explains alot! I thought.
Part of me thinks "Lets reclaim it " and see how everyone else likes it.

Anonymous said...

I learned ITA from 78-80 in a primary school in Scotland. I would also love to know where I could buy a Paul and Sally book - they were fabulous. I discussed the ITA spellings with some friends and they though I was going mad! Thankfully, you guys have proved that I'm not!

Anonymous said...

I am looking for Billy and Betty Pig book?????

Anonymous said...

I still have a ladybird ita book "the party "I learned ita at school ,then moved to a school where they didnt teach it , I now blame my dreadfull spelling on the experience !

Dr.J said...

Wow, This brings back memories from when I started primary school in 1971. This was my first book and I remember it very well. Although supposedly easy reading, I think this actually held us back a bit. I can see where they were trying to go with this, but when my family moved house and I changed school to one that taught normal reading and writing, we had to learn over again. I don't think it made much difference to me as I only learned it for 2 years. My spelling and grammar are very good and I did very well in my English exams. I told my colleagues about this book and they thought it was a joke. Only now they believe me. I read out one page which I found very easy to read, and also gave the spellings for the words. My friends were amazed that this was ever published. Thank god we have normal books now.

Sandy B said...

I was also taught ITA: at St Peter and Paul Primary in Bristol. It would have been around 1974 - 76.
We read Zip and Wendy books.
I used to think I was a guinea-pig in some government experiment but now, working in Primary School office, I am shocked at the poor spelling and grammar abilities of the teaching staff - most of whom are in their 20s and 30s!

Simon said...

I was taught ITA, using Paul and Sally, from the mid 70s at a school on The Wirral, Merseyside. (The 'proper' English books were referred to as "traditional", IIRC.)

A few years back I did a little digging online to find out about this strange alphabet from my childhood, and found a study suggesting ITA was quite successful. From what I recall of the findings, kids who started with ITA had a bigger vocabulary, read more, and wrote more, than kids who did not when tested in later years. The main objections against ITA were the scarcity of material, and parental suspicion of the unconventional alphabet.

Anonymous said...

as usual ill have to change writen words because i cannot spell them and have to change direction

tracey said...

I Agree its the worst reading I ever had to learn,as when you them had spelling tests.you always seem to get things wrong.to this day,it is a nightmare for me as i still tend to make simple mistakes.it was even harder because i didn,t go to school untill i was 6 years old as we had lived Australia befoe this. but could read and write normal.but was forced to read I.T.A

Anonymous said...

ITA should not be to blame for poor spelling in adulthood! I learned how to read under the ITA program in the early 70s and I was at an advanced reading level; it didn't affect me one bit in spelling. How about people today who never had ITA and can't spell to save their life? ITA was never the issue, it's the person, and if they can't spell properly, then they obviously have a learning disability. I see too many adults who misspell commonly used words. It is pathetic!!

Anonymous said...

ITA was part of my first grade (6 yrs old) reading curriculum in Western Pennsylvania in 1976. I don't know if it was a teacher preference or if the school administration wanted it used. I started reading children's books (Dr. Suess) at home at 4 years old and was reading and understanding newspaper in first grade, yet my report cards show U's (unsatisfactory)in reading and spelling. Also two younger brothers were held back because of reading problems. Gee I wonder why?

Anonymous said...

i learnt i t a in 1973- 1976 in downside infant school in luton .. most of my friends have never heard of it either .. and i am a rubbish speller too :)..i can still read it now and when i show it to my kids they think its a crazy way of learning to read , almost like learning 2 languages

VJ said...

I learned I.T.A between 1965-1967 at a very small village school in Leicestershire. I was taught by my mother to read and write normally before I went to school so this was hard but I had to do it. Then the school closed and I Had to go to a bigger school of which nobody else had learned with I.T.A apart from my brother and my cousin, we never had any help to help us convert back to the normal way of reading and writing, none of us can spell well and I can't pronounce things because I Wasn't taught how to sound out the vowels correctly amongst other things. I feel very angry at being used as a guinea pig as it has effected me all my life, if people see you can not spell they presume you are less intelligent, It also affects my confidence. I have since I left school got my English O level but I still can't spell thank god for computers and spell checkers!

Grant Bennett said...

I learnt ITA at St Andrew's school in Hove Sussex from about 1973 to 75. This system was then dropped with no support, who ever decided to use us a guinepigs should be shot. I learnt to read with no problems but then within two years I was having difficukties, it took me 4 attempts to pass GCE English. I wonder if I could clain compensation?, I'm serious!

Paula said...

I went to Cedars first and middle school in Harrow Middlesex in the 70s even though it is one school only the first school use ITA . I can still remember the shock I had first day of middle school when I found out I had to learn to read all over again as we had been taught to read wrong .

Anonymous said...

I went to Stourfied Junior School in Southbourne, Bournemouth, I learnt to spell with ITA when i started there in 1970. My spelling has always been pretty good so I don't blame the ITA system.
I have collection of 8 Ladybird books that are printed in ITA, they are quite rare i think as most of them were pulped when the system failed. It's good to know there are plenty of other people out there who learnt via the system!

Anonymous said...

I learnt ITA from 1972-1975 in Belfast. Trying to remember who and what the reading books were about? There was a story about ice-cream. Would love to see those books again.

Laura said...

I was taught I.T.A. at a Catholic grade school in Topeka, Ks. I still remember the symbols that stood for certain sounds. I was born in 1962 and my school only did it my 2nd and third grade years and then stopped. I am a great reader and speller. It did not hurt me but I always remember it as being very odd.

Anonymous said...

Ah, ITA! Sally and Paul, Zip & Wendy, Ronnie Rocket!

Anonymous said...

I would love to buy any ITA reading books if anyone has them in good enough condition. Stick them on eBay please!

carie said...

I used these books too. 1975. In Alton Illinois. I can write with both hands. Then and now. The school thought was weird!!! Left hand could write upside-down and backwords. Right hand was regular.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! I learned ita reading as a kindergarten student in cleveland ohio in 1965. I already knew how to read, but I loved Sally and Paul! I would love to see a copy of those sweet little books.

joy mcdougall said...

I was born in 1962 and was tought to read and wright usuing the ita system ..Zip & wendy books were great ...but found it hard to change to normal english .. though when i later went on to learn Latin found it very simillar and my memories of primary 1 2 & 3 came back into use ..would love to se a copy of an old Zip & Wendy or Paul and Sally ..though still use ita as an excuse for my poor
spelling ..

Marion said...

I went to school on The Wirral and also learnt ITA. Whilst I am not a very good speller I am an avid reader. I found it so surprising that I could read the Fisherman page on this site straight away. I do think that ITA effected my spelling but it did give me a better volcabulary.

KathyB194 said...

I also learned ITA when at primary school on the Wirral in the late 1960s. I have had no problems with either reading or spelling so it didn't affect me. I could read before I started school (normal way), had to relearn with ITA when I started and then move on to TO! Never saw it as a problem myself at the time. I can see how it would have affected some people though who were less confident readers. But as others have said, we have poor spellers today who have never learned ITA so it can't be held wholly to blame. Glad my boys didn't have to learn it though! They did do Jolly Phonics, which was another strange reading experiment! We read the Paul and Sally books and in fact it was Googling "Paul and Sally books" that led me to this site!

Anonymous said...

I was taught how to read using the I.T.A books in my primary school in Moreton on the wirral. I must say that our class learned to read very quickly and then moved into normal reading easily. We where taught that the ch and sh sounds (which in ITA where joined together) no longer spoke to each other and so they seperated them to become ch and sh, so we found it easy to adapt. Our class where given daily spelling tests and spelling was drummed into us as being a very important part of education. By the age of 7 we could read anything and our spelling was of a high standard. My opinion and that of other school friends who remember I.T.A say the same it was an easy and brilliant way of teaching. It has to be said, we did have excellent teachers in our school and English grammar was a high priority. We never suffered from it and in fact we all found it easy to adapt and our spelling was excellent. I loved it and can read an ITA book now without any problem at all. My opinion a brilliant way of teaching

Anonymous said...

ha i was taught ita too , just goes to show how stupid the people who are left to teach our children really are , mr pitman should of been dragged out of his home screaming and kicking :)

Joseph Greenspan said...

It did not affect all kids the same way. to say it is not an excuse for poor spelling is false. Some kids were not affected, but a certain percentage were. That is why it was discontinued. It weird some kids wrong.

James said...

Have just come across the blog. I was taught to read using ita in the early 1970's. Like most children if you are taught to do something then you learn to do it. The porpblem was when you changed to reading traditional English. I struggled to make the conversion. It put me off reading as the new, correct English was alien to me. I also think that it hindered my education whilst at school. Truely I did not enjoy reading until I was in my teens. I am now an avid reader. Also I am now a Primary School Teacher. Experiments are set by those in government who have no real understanding of education and learning. THEY only want to leave their mark- to justify their big salaries. I think compensation for the failed experiment should be in oreder...Funny thin is I could read the extract from the Fisherman. The spelling is atrocious. In an experiment, it is said that most people can decipher words in their own language if the first and last letters are in the correct place. (the others can be jumbled) such as; Why Can You Sltil Raed Tihs Haeldine?

Gillian said...

I can honestly say I had never heard of ITA books until I did a house clearance this week in Dorset and found a whole shelf of very strange children's books. I was born in '62 and, according to you bloggers, should have seen them at school in Middlesex, west London but maybe I just missed out. Anyway, anyone want a weird book? plenty of titles to choose from.

Helen said...

Yes please, Gillian. I'd love to get my hands on a few more! I find the whole episode fascinating. Please email me if you have any for sale: nmccar1063@aol.com

sheridan said...

Hi all ,my school pal and I were the only ones at our Junior school taught ITA in around 1971-3. We were deemed the good readers so we were taught ITA and it was thought it wouldn't harm our reading as we were above average. Our
reading ability at the end of almost 2 years became the same as our class peers so it was abandoned. I still have 1 book called book ov pets Shame I cant write it the way its spelt on here. I can still read it tho
Would love to see the books I read so if anyone has any going spare! Ill send me details.

Anonymous said...

Gillian, if yo still have these books I would also be very interested. I'm a special needs teacher and was talking about these books in a spelling staff meeting - they thought I was mad! I'd love to be able to show them real copies!! I went to school in Isleworth Middx and was taught conventionally but my cousin who went to a nearby school was taught ITA. We were both born in 1963 and learning to read at the same time - I can remember us both having the same book with different spelling and arguing which of us had the real book! My email is: debmccutcheon@yahoo.co.uk

Anonymous said...

I was just talking to my parents and we were discussing dinosaur Ben. That was the ITA book I learned to read. I was taught ITA in a small town in southeastern New Mexico. That was in 1965. I believe it was only taught for one year. I was always a good speller but not a very good reader. I have no idea if the ITA had anything to do with it or not. I haven't thought about ITA in a long time. This is the first time I have even looked up any information on the subject. It has been interesting reading the posts.

Anonymous said...

I was taught to read with ITA at Lineker Street Primary school in Southport England in the early to mid 60's. I think I could read before I went to school.
I don't remember transitioning and suspect it happened when I changed school aged 6, but I don't recall having a problem with it. I do know that I always had a reading age and vocabulary many years above my actual age all the way through primary school (when these things seemed to matter very much!) Is that because I love reading and writing like breathing, or is it because I am a perfect product of ITA? Which is the chicken and which the egg? Who knows? That said, I still cannot with any confidence spell a word with a diphthong. They all look equally wrong whichever way I write them.

Oscarthomassteven said...

I started as a teacher in 1970. I won't say where.... For three years I taught ITA and then we were told that because there were problems with it the school was abandoning it. it gave me a very cynical view of teaching when I realised that I had probably delayed or even destroyed the reading ability of my three (very large )classes. I did keep my cynicism for forty years as a teacher though.

ITA teacher said...

I completed my teacher training in July 1964 and started teaching 6 year olds in Sept 1964. The head of my school immediately sent me on ITA training (not my choice!) and I subsequently taught reading using ITA from early 1965. I still have a number of readers in good condition if anyone is interested in buying them.
1964 ITA Teacher

Anonymous said...

This brings back so many memories. I, like Bigland was taught ITA in Rochford, Essex between 1976 and 1978. I still have an old 'news' book. I too remember progressing to T.O when I was in the 3rd Year infants. I have always wondered what T.O stands for. I am currently teaching literacy at a High School. So ITA is of great interest to me.