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Hi, I'm Darryll and I live in Pullman, Washington with my wife and two kids. I'm a licensed Architect and am employed as a Project Manager at Washington State University. In addition, I have my own business doing residential designs in the greater Palouse area. I am a self-taught pianist, song-writer and singer and am involved in the music department at my local church.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Remember Those!!!

We all get it - “Bloggers Block” – the electronic equivalent of “Writes Block”. I had it bad yesterday so I just sat back and tried to remember…

As I wandered aimlessly about in the deep recesses of my mind (read vacuous, not necessarily voluminous) for something… anything… to blog about, I took a mental trip down memory lane and suddenly remembered reading in Mrs. Izette’s 5th grade class. It wasn’t what we read that I remembered, it was how we read.

There was a reading program that we participated in, and for the life of me I could not remember the name of it or details about it. I called my brother who *always* remembers all of these little, trivial, unimportant things - he claims these memories will all be on “the test” and he’s gonna ace it! I described to him my best recollections and waited for him to simultaneously tell me everything about it and scold me for not remembering. But – he couldn’t! I couldn’t believe it! I glanced outside but saw no pigs flying so I figured that he must really be stumped. We each agreed to call the other back if and when we remembered.

…dinner and the evening – nothing.

…late night drafting and Leno – still nothing.

…slept the whole night – no springing up in bed at 3:30 with the answer.

Then – this morning in the shower – I remembered. I shouted out SRA! That’s it! SRA!!!

Having dashed to the bathroom to rescue me from who knows what, I could tell my wife really was glad I was ok through her scolding me for scaring her half to death.

It was called a Reading Laboratory Kit that a company called Science Research Associates (SRA) began in 1957 and teachers used in the classrooms as a reading comprehension tool geared towards individual students. The reading materials were color coded, and as you read, completed and successfully tested all of the lessons in one level, you got to move to the next level, which was another color. And the really cool thing was the Progress Board that was set up in the classroom. For each lesson you completed, a big gold star was put in that space and it was out there for all to see.

I remember vividly that it was fun, a challenge and really encouraged us to read. There was pride in our hearts as kids as we achieved the successive levels and had the gold stars to show for it. I don’t know if I’m actually a better reader or not because I used this program, but I do remember that it was fun, and anytime you can make learning fun for a kid, you’re doing something right.

The internet is awesome. I was able to find some images from an original SRA lesson. For those of you who can remember these – it’ll take you back. For everyone else – here’s how we used to learn, old school! Click on these and they'll open up full size.

And yes, I did call my brother and taunt him that I had remembered it. That’s one for me to his thousands…but it’s one!


joe said...

I had forgotten all about those. Last time I did one was around '78. I never got past the 2nd color.. please don't tell anyone....

Marco said...

I remember these too!!! Very cool. The colors were a very creative tool but the big board with the gold stars was the best

Ally said...

My mom taught grammar school in the 1970s, I want to ask her about these. I remember the Iowa tests, but that's about it. Funniest thing about the Iowa tests is they would test us on things like which, "Which word does not belong in this sentence: 'That there cat is cute.'" or something and none of us New Yorkers spoke that way so those questions were easy!


technick said...

If there was ever a way to kill an appreciation of reading, SRA cornered the market. I remember these kits too and as a reading teacher I'll kill my administrators if these ever come into favor again!

Blast from the Past said...

Joe: Your secrets safe with me! :)

Marco: I remember the big board so well. I was never the leader on it, but I was always very motivated to do well because of those stars!

Ally: That there sounds like a good ol' test :)

Technick: I'm sorry you feel that way. I don't know that they had a negative effect on me, but it sounds like you have experience that they aren't the best thing.
I did enjoy doing them, though!:)

Craig said...

Oh man! I could SMELL the thing when I opened the picture of the individual pages!! The font, the colors......great memories!

Blast from the Past said...


You know, that new movie "Limitless" is where Bradley Cooper's character can remember everything he has ever seen, heard, smelled or touched his entire life. While that's an interesting concept and probably a great movie (I'm actually going to see it tomorrow) I feel that there's something therapeutic about having to think hard to try to remember things - and once you remember them, it's a very rewarding experience.

I'm so glad you had a great experience with your memory from reading this post. SRA-s were really cool!

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the only one who absolutely HATED these things. I could never get past the first level and it was really frustrating to be so far behind everyone.

Anonymous said...

I hated them too! Always stuck in the lowest levels. I was good at lots of other subjects. I had good comprehension but read too slowly to do well on SRA (I still do!)
All the lowest levels were boring primary colours (Canadian spelling) like red while I longed to get to Aquamarine!

Anonymous said...

We had these, but also had a very similar system for learning map skills. You would study a map and answert questiosn, and the maps got more complex as you progressed. To would start with a map of something like a zoo, then progress to a small town, city, etc. Does anyone remember the name of those?

Blast from the Past said...

Hey, Anon -

I don't recall anything like the maps that you had. It would have been good for me to have something like that, though. I am terrible at geography - something of which my very geo-savvy brother and father continually remind me. )

Angela said...

Funny as you get older how these random flashbacks just take you right back there..I too wished that I could've been up there with the smarty-pants. It reached us in Scotland too.

Anonymous said...

I remember the SRA program back in the mid 80's. I HATED it, it really wasn't fun to read.... Ironically the program was removed from the school district before my younger sister got there... She LOVES to read...
Thanks for the terrible memories! :-)

Charles Benoit said...

I loved them! That was the best part of my school day, getting to read on my own and go at my own pace. Did they help my reading? I don't know, but I'm still a voracious reader and now a published author. I give them 4 gold stars.

Emma Perry said...

I remember these back in the early 80s. The children who finished their literacy work before the others got given an SRA card to complete. I devoured them! I'm now a writer; it's not unlikely that these little gems helped me on my way!

KristinM said...

I have fond and stressed memories of SRA. I only remember them in first grade, way back in 1967. My biggest annoyance was I usually got the "name this story" questions wrong.

I've been thinking about the chart with the progress marked for all to see. That was some pressure and can see how those struggling the most could really resent that.

I'd love to see an image of the progress chart up close...still hunting for that online.

Please let me know if you find one.

Frank Gordon said...

I absolutely loved these. We had them in school, in Scotland during the 70's. I was a bit obsessed with the colours. It became a challenge for all of us to progress through the colours, which became like badges of honour... "I just completed TAN!" etc.
the stories were great - I loved the one about the guy in the US who made huge, sculptured towers out of rubbish (trash)
Great memories, thank you.

Frank Gordon said...

I loved these. Glad to see others did too. We had them in Scotland during the 70's. progressing through the colours became a challenge, like earning a new badge..."I just completed TAN!" etc.
great stories too - loved the one about the guy in the US who made huge sculptured towers from rubbish (trash)
Great memories, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, SRA was a favorite of mine...I can't remember my teacher's name, but I remember this fun reading program! I am a teacher now, and would love to incorporate it in my classroom...very expensive, but they have expanded it to include many more elements to help a diverse population! The colors were such a motivational element, and now that you mention those stars...I remember them too! Thanks for the blast from the past!

RSW said...

An article at MentalFloss reminded me of these today. We called them "reading lab" in the '70s. They were the best part of my school day. As a natural speed reader who read everything he could get his hands on, I just blew through the colors. I'd love to read them again.

C Pryce said...

Hello from England - thank you so much for the pictures of the SRA format - it was a Proustian moment, memories came back, the chairs, the school cupboard the SRA box was kept in. In my school in Shropshire, UK (1974-8) i seem to recall SRA books as well as cards, but it was the tests at the end that captured my imagination - I used to come home and create my own cards for my dolls school! I especially remember the colour coding - tan, aqua, etc. I get an almost synaesthesia from recalling those colours - they feel like real physical sensations of memory. I am now a compulsive reader, so SRA must have got something right!

Blast from the Past said...

Thank you so much for your comments, C! I am really glad you enjoyed the blog. As you can see - I've been out of the posting practice for quite some time, but I do get an occasional comment from those who - like you - come across my musings... I really appreciated your wonderfully descriptive and delightfully thought provoking words. I, too, can remember so much more that just the SRA system itself: the room, the people, and, indeed, the "feelings" of accomplishment when I completed a level. I thinks its's a reflection of happy memories when all the senses are piqued by the memories.

As for SRA making us all into Readers, that didn't happen for me. I'm afraid that I read very little... but I did end up writing a book about growing up in the '70s... go figure! :)

Thank you, too, for your educating me and increasing my vocabulary with Proustian and synaesthesia! (of course I had to look them up). I can hardly wait to shoehorn these into my next casual conversations and then proclaim that I learned from my friend in England!

And speaking of all things English, this Friday, 2 friends, my brother and I are going to see Eric Idle and John Cleese in "Together Again at Last For The Very First Time". We're looking to espouse all things Python and do so in our very bad British accents - and generally have a very good time!

I'm about as far away from England as one can be (Palouse, Washington) but it's good to know we can have fun and engaging conversations nontheless. Blessings to you and yours, and "long live the '70s!


David said...

Well known short story writer Raymond Carver was an editor at SRA in the late 1960s before he hit the big time - he really knew his stuff and introduced some great writing to the series.
We had a big old SRA box in my country primary school in New Zealand and i loved it, especially how the font size got smaller as you moved up a level and the stories got better.

Blast from the Past said...

Hey, David -
I'm afraid that I'm not familiar with Raymond Carver, but I'm glad that this post helped you to remember the whole SRA system. I have been surprised to learn that this was a system used around the world and not just here in the US.

Thanks for reading!

Boo Long said...

Thanks for the memories! My primary school (in England) used these in the mid 1970s. I just had a sudden flashback memory of 'SRA' and a search came up with this blog. Our SRA cards were of course written in British English but I could always sense their American origins somehow. I'd forgotten about the colour schemes. Aqua and tan! I can see how colours were intended to have less social stigma than numbers, but it was pretty well understood by us that kids still on red age 8 were't doing so well.
Our school also used the awful ITA system for initial teaching, but luckily I could read and write before sachool so was spared the horrors of that!

Blast from the Past said...

Hey, boo!
Looking back, I don't know if the SRA System helped me to read better or not (I'm sure it probably did) but I do know that it was a lot of fun, made the action of writing an adventure, and obviously gave me a lot of good memories! :)