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!
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....
I remember these too!!! Very cool. The colors were a very creative tool but the big board with the gold stars was the best
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!
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!
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!:)
Oh man! I could SMELL the thing when I opened the picture of the individual pages!! The font, the colors......great memories!
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!
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.
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!
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?
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. )
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.
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! :-)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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! :)
So glad I stumbled upon this! My school in Minneapolis used The SRA system in the 60s. I don't have many childhood memories but I remember this because I loved it. As might be expected, it sounds like those who did well with this system (top color purple?) loved it and those who had a harder time with it didn't. For me, it was great to be able to progress at my own speed and go through all the colors quickly.
Yup! And I remember that it was a lot of fun and that it made me want to read!
I used to go to St Thomas's primary school in New Zealand in the early 70's and loved the cards! Over the years I had asked others what they were but everyone would look at me with a blank expression - what a boring schooling they must have had! I couldn't wait until it was time to sharpen my pencil and get into the colours. I don't remember if they helped me with reading or not but I loved them!
I used to go to St Thomas's primary school and remember them, don't remember if they helped my reading though. I couldn't wait to sharpen my pencil and plough through the colours! I have asked people over the years if they remember them and no one ever did - what boring schools they must have gone to!!
Wow! New Zealand! I'm continually amazed to find out how Global this program was as opposed to just something in my area or just in the US. Isn't it something to realize how motivated we all were by colors? Thanks for sharing your memories!
Great blog and post about the SRA system of the 70s. I have a blog that looks at vintage educational technology and I'm starting to look at the SRA system so thanks a lot for your contribution. Take a look:
BTW, I also have posts about filmstrips, mimeographs, and many of the other modern educational technologies of the 70s. Remember the overhead projector and microfiche systems? How about manual typewriters with carbon paper?
I remember that there were cards that had bios of rock bands like Kiss and Aerosmith. Not sure if they were SRA or something similar ;but I devoured those and as a result I was unstoppable at rock trivia. To this day it seems strange to me when people don't know a thing about their favorite rock bands.
Hey, Steve -
I do not remember any of those rock band cards. Almost sounds like they were trading cards of a sort... they sound like they were really cool! I would bet a good set of those might fetch a pretty penny these days. I'll have to do some web surfing and see if I can find out some more info on them.
Thanks for sharing!
I stumbled upon this post in a roundabout way, beginning with John Sisson's "Dreams of Space" blog. I must share what probably will be the strangest reminiscence about the SRA box. I practiced reading with the box in elementary school in the early 1960s. As it happened I attended a full-on hellfire and damnation church and lived in constant fear of my childhood transgressions sending me to the Other Place. One night I had a vivid nightmare that merged the two streams. I was lying in bed under a tall stack of white blankets, each coded with a color and a number like the SRA cards. I knew that the deeper in the stack I went the closer I'd come to Hell. Some unseen person was telling me I had to go down to the next level and I woke up terrified.
You can guess the dream really shook me, given that I still recall it half a century later. I'm not sure why SRA cards became a source of torment. I had no problem with them. I read well and most of the time I whizzed through SRA assignments. It's interesting that in my dream the more advanced levels were the ones nearer perdition. I invite amateur psychoanalysts (or educators?) to explain that one.
Wow! I can honestly say that I have never heard of anything remotely like your experience! I am no psychoanalyst, but it sure seems like someone was trying to tell you something! I'm glad that you enjoyed the post, and I hope you only have fond memories of SRA in the future.
My siblings and I wet to ps48 deep in the South Bronx. We were all very smart, always in the number one classes. We loved sra!!! You always wanted to get to the next color level. It was such a feeling of pride to excel back then. I think black was the highest color before moving on to the next grade reading level. For all of you who hated sra, including the teachers, in sorry but sra made us great readers. To this day my brothers, sister and I are voracious readers!!
So cool to hear how great SRA was for you and your siblings. My 3 siblings (brother and 2 sisters) are also voracious readers. I read just fine, but I'm not as "into" it as they all are. BUT - I DO know that SRA was a big part of WHY I am able to read well, and really enjoy it when I do read! :)
Thanks for your comments, and Happy Holidays to you and yours!
I live in the U.K I am now studying teaching assistant level 3. The module I am currently working on is Assessment. For this I am comparing what I went through in the late 70's to mid 80's. I have a long term memory and these cards have stuck with me for over 30 years. I must admit though I thought they were called RSA.s (close). I have always been good at reading from being very young. The reason why these stuck with me was because I have a bad memory on these reading cards. Well there was this girl sat next to me, she took the answer card and hid it in her desk, so I copied what she did.
Someone told the teacher and it was me that got caught. I came off worse than the girl, because I kept quiet about that she did the same thing. Yes I think I could have easily completed the card, I can't remember what colour I reached, I think I was in the middle.
All 3 of my children are extremely good readers, they have all reached free choice reading by the time they reached year 5 in primary school. My oldest can read a 300 page book in less than 2 hours.
They say once you grasp and understand the comprehension of reading, the rest of the subjects just follow, as you understand the questioning of other subjects. My children have had a book in their hands since they were 6 months old. They have earned from repetitive stories to singing songs. It's all about memorising the words.
Thank you for your comment, Baby Blue... I am amazed at how many comments this one post has produced. So cool to hear that your little ones are such good readers, and that the SRA system was such a positive thing in your life.
I remember working with these as late as 3rd grade. I absolutely hated them. Leave it to school to destroy a kid's natural love of reading. I guess I managed to become a reader despite this incredibly dull series of random reading excerpts. I'm amazed so many people remember them fondly.
Thanks for the comment, Cathy It was all about how cool it was to see your progress - and that others got to see you were doing well (assuming you didi well! :) )
It was the late 60s, at the little Easton Public Library in PA, and I remember as a little girl the absolute thrill of getting a card from the librarian, reading it, answering the questions, having her check the answers, then giving me the next card in the color level. It was magical. I loved it. I don't know how long I did it, I don't know why I was at the library, I have no recollection of anything else about that library, I just remember the SRA reading program and how fun it was.
I was head over heels in love with the SRA cards! I remember not being able to stop going through them during class. Wondering whether they sparked or spurred on my love of books and reading. Would dearly wish to see and go through those cards again.
Wow! So glad other people remember these so fondly too. I loved them- maybe since I was so good at them??
Well - I wasn't really good at them, but I still had some good memories!
I want so much to get my hands on an SRA box from 1969, the year that I was in fifth grade. I totally agree that the SRA seriously wounded my love for reading. I hated the things! I was so envious of Pamela Jordan, and everyone else at Monac Elementary School in Toledo Ohio who got all the way to the gold level. I stayed stuck in the ugly muddy colors of purple and green. Now, as an "older" adult I'd love to have a go at them again. Anyone have a box that could I borrow? The postage is on me! Henny Haigh Grossoehme
Henry, Henry, Henry -
Whoa!!! Just a LITTLE bit of pent up emotion there! :) ...and it Looks like it's been bubbling and festering there for 50 years! What a bummer to to hear of the deep emotional scars that were unintentionally inflicted upon you in the name the SRA Educational Program.
I don't know how to "Mass Media" your request for an SRA box - so I hope that someone reading this can either do that, or has access to an old SRA box for you.
Best of luck, and please let me know if it all works out.
Hey, if anyone has an early 70's SRA box and doesn't want to see it take the brunt of years of pent-up rage (!) Please, please send it me!! I can imagine the incredible rush of memories - sight, tactile and smell - that would be unleashed .... Proust, you can keep your madeleines!! - I'd be back in blissful 'temps perdu' ... They'd go to the grave with me I promise!
Well - Things are getting interesting! Now we have Christine who apparently loved SRA so much that she swears allegiance to the program and will protect them 'til death do them 'part. It will be interesting to see if any of these actually show up and who ends up getting them! :)
Hi! I remember these from 1960s Montreal!! Couldn't think of the name, thanks Google! Does anyone know, did you have to start at the bottom no matter how good a reader you already were, or did the teacher place you somewhere, and check that you were not too high or too low??
I have it in my mind that there was also another similar thing with a different set of initials?? Something like RFU, but I know that is not right!
Thanks for the comment! I don't remember where we had to start in the program. I think that I would have probably had to start at the bottom, so if there was an option to start elsewhere, I probably wouldn't have heard about it...:)
For me, it was about 1971. I never got past the first or second color either. The articles in the first colors were mind-numbingly boring and I could not maintain focus on them! I feel you, Joe! The sight of them was the most depressing thing
I wanted to set them on fire
Again - I'm amazed at how many people weigh in on this and how many different opinions there are on it. I wonder if the inventors of this system have any idea how much varied impact it has had world-wide!
Well, I hated SRA. Period. I am a good reader, went through school, received my PhD in history and now teach at a local college. But, when I stumbled across this blog, I discussed with a much younger colleague at work. She does not remember SRA. It brings back some very dreadful memories. I remember being so frustrated by the knowledge that I was not in the highest color or that other students were reading in higher colors than me, that I could not concentrate on the very dull story (and they were inevitably dull) that seemed to drone on eternally. I would end up after school and in summers haunting our local library for great books. I loved Greek and Roman mythology, science fiction, and stories of the Old West. Then there was reading time at school -- with those awful colors and the stars that went to people who were in higher colors than me. I may have received a star -- don't remember, but that type of competition -- reading fast, answering questions fast, moving fast to the next color only made me an angry, crying, frustrated girl.
Well - so sorry to hear your experience with SRA was so disappointing. I'm very glad that obviously didn't affect your ability or desire to read. It also didn't seem to do anything to stifle your achievements in life. I don't know what types of reading programs are used today, but I hope that they are more effective and are better liked by the students. I appreciate your sharing, and congrats to you and all your achievements.
I too grew up in the 70s and how I remember SRA kits! Does anyone remember Clifford the Big Red Dog? Didn't we read about him also? Anyway, I am a substitute teacher currently working with special ed. Guess what? Kids are STILL doing SRA in public schools! The story lines are quite funny and engaging, I believe much more so than when we were their age. I actually end up laughing with the kids about the stories. So sad to hear how SRA angered quite a few of you. Sounds like you are all doing well with various achievements in life, so the kits certainly did not harm you. I have fond memories of the readings. Thank you for this blog, I actually was looking up SRA to see WHO and WHEN they first began and stumbled upon this blog. Here's to the 70s and to those of us who survived SRA kits!
Hi, Cathy -
I appreciate the positive comments - they've been far and few between in this blog. How interesting to hear that they are actually still in use today. I certainly believe that they have had to up their game as far as the storylines are concerned, although I don't remember the stories that I read - it was a *few* years ago...:)
BTW - I think that Clifford was much later - like in the '80s... I know it was way past when I was a kid. I hope you had as great a life growing up in the '70s as I did - When I wrote my book, it brought back a lot of good memories! ...I'm sure you could probably relate, too.
Hey Blast from the Past, I was searching for those SRA books and found your site. OMG I hated those cause I was a slow, tangented reader. Hmmm, why was I here??? Oh yeh, I used to cheat on the tests so I could advance to the next level. Wasn't Gold the highest. I couldn't even cheat my way to gold. My two best friends were reading Gold on the first day. So moral of the story is don't cheat and make sure you have smart friends :)
Thanks for the post, and for your insightful nuggets of wisdom! :)
OMG! I was trying to recall what those color-coded cards were called that taught me how to read in 2nd and and 3rd grades in Ventura, Iowa and Google brought me here, to your blog. I LOVED those cards and recall how I became one of the star readers in the class. It was a competition to complete the cards as fast as you could and move on to the next color! Thank you SRA! The best reading comprehension program ever devised.
Hey, Marlon -
I am SO sorry that I didn't respond sooner! It's so refreshing to get some feedback from someone who actually enjoyed and has fond memories of SRA! While I wasn't an incredible reader, nor did I end up loving to read, I did enjoy the SRA program... it was a structured system that helped me nonetheless.
You know - with your incredible reading abilities and obvious love of reading (DANGER!!! Shameless self-serving plug ALERT) There's a certain book I know all about growing up in the '70s that is I'm sure you'd enjoy! (http://www.my70sbook.com/). Not only is a great read for all of us who grew up in the '70s, it's great for our friends and family - and it spans into other generations...
OK - I'll step off my soapbox :) Again, thank you for your reading my blog and commenting - I really do appreciate it!
Thing I remember most...and not sure why...was the color group aqua
In my opinion the SRA Reading Labs either taught you to cheat, to scan, or to love gold stars. I really do not believe it has ever advanced learning. I was a very advanced reader. I loved reading and even taught my younger sister to read. We secretly read into the middle of the night on school nights.
I was frustrated with the cards. I read every word and answered every question. Other students told me they cheated or scanned the books and moved up, gaining gold star after gold star.
I was doing so poorly with the cards that I was moved into a special ed class. The teacher noticed I was an exceptional reader but couldn't move me back into the other class so I ended up making sure the other students had completely filled in the circles on their exams.
My mom was ill at the time or she would have done all she could to move me into another class. As it was, I ended up without reading instruction the rest of my fifth grade year. Amazingly, I tested in 11th or 12th grade reading levels by the 7th grade.
Thanks, Jennifer -
There have been so many comments on this post - both Pro and Con - and I feel that I've seen the merit in both arguments. I think that I can best sum up the whole discussion by saying that the SRA program both helped and hindered many, perhaps in it's design and execution. I think that we all can agree that it was a product of the era and the thinking at the the time - and the we can say we all learned from it - one way or another.
Thank you so much for your input. Let's all keep learning in whatever way best serves us!
I had a conversation today over lunch with a colleague about the old SRA program. We both loved it. I remember going over to the window and getting a card after I had done my work. All the readers in the class loved these. I would max out the levels and then go back and read the lower levels as well. I became a history teacher and would use these today for reading if I had them. My friend did find an old set in storage and used them working with ESL readers. They were great! I think the basic difference between those who did or did not like them often came from the status of reading in the home. Those kids who read at home and where books were cherished tended to love these. Reading anything was cool, magazines, newspapers, even the back of cereal boxes. If reading was not modeled and shown an appreciation for in the home, that focus never developed. I disagree that it was just a product of the times. Some things never lose their effectiveness.
Jennifer, seems you were much more concerned with the other kids and their stars than the reading. :)
This system I started in 4th grade had me reading at a high school reading level by 6th grade,too bad my math level at the time was only 6th grade level. I had the same teacher for both subjects. And Mr.Ard couldn't figure out why I was such a poor math student and a above average at English or literature. I'm glad I finally understood how important math is thanks to Mr.Ard.
I loved doing these cards!!!! And I know they helped with my reading, grammar and spelling. It was always my favorite time of day when we got to go.to.the library and pick out the next card! I am a voracious reader to this day!
Well, I am happy for you that they aided your love of reading. They almost killed mine!
I started these in N.Z. in the late 60s early 70s I started off loving them. Then suddenly I jumped a couple of colours and the fun went out the window. I started to dread them. If only i was allowed to proceed at my own pace.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH GASOLINE IN THE CARDS! BURN, CARDS! BURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRNNNN!!! HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It appears that somebody was not a fan of the SRA Program! :)
I saw a blogger commenting elsewhere that these were merely "behaviourist", with mechanistic rewards. My memory of them is anything but. I adored the cards because they were intriguing: if you raced through them and got to the top levels, you would be exposed to the most amazing concepts. One card explained that animal life on Earth was carbon-based, but on another planet, it might be silicon-based. That was thrillingly weird. I was so disappointed when I got home and no-one in the family could throw light on what silicon-based beings would look like :) We only had one year of SRA, though, and after that, it was back to me staring out the window as the teaching period crawled by. We had something similar in maths in secondary school, also for a year, and I blossomed in maths that year using those cards. I can see from the comments here that SRA was not for everyone. For me, a poor listener but an enthusiastic learner, the year of SRA was a paradise.
We got the SRA system in the late 60's, near the end of 5th or 6th grade -- an interesting, newfangled method of reading instruction. I LOVED those things!!!
The teacher placed us at a starting level. The lower-level colors were short stories with large print. The stories got longer and the print got smaller as the color level increased.
Our class had students at lots of different levels, so I'm thinking there must have been a different SRA box for each grade, since some people remember using them at younger ages.
I had long been a voracious reader and was fascinated by the cards, the color levels, the whole concept. I think I was placed at the third level from the top, which was the highest anyone in the class was started. And I was actually disappointed about all the earlier cards I would never get to read!
We did SRA first thing after recess. The teacher gave ME the job of coming in early from recess and distributing that day's cards for the class. I couldn't have been more excited! I would choose a story card from each student's current color level that they hadn't read yet according to their chart, and place it on their desk for when they would come in from recess. (There were about a dozen different reading cards in each color, and I seem to remember we filled in the color and number of each card we completed on some kind of personal record.)
How much did I love SRA cards? I tried to make MY OWN set at home! I composed a few different "color-coded" stories on some "cards" and tried to set up a box for them like at school. Of course, that didn't progress too far, LOL.
Unfortunately, since it was already mid-Spring when we got SRA, the school year ended before anyone could complete more than about two color levels. But I have fond memories of that time -- 50 years later! Crazy.
It's sad that some have bad memories.
I am continually amazed at how much discussion this subject has generated. I would probably say that it's 64/40 with the majority of comments being negative.
It's very refreshing to see someone who had such a positive experience! Wow!!! - Loved it so much you recreated it at home! That's amazing, and very impressive.
Thanks you for sharing your memories... I really enjoyed reading it and glad this was an outlet for you to share on.
I regularly google the internet on vague subjects and usually get rewarded as I was with this. I vaguely remember the SRA programme from the late 70s in Dunedin but couldn't tell you for the life of me how far I moved through it. I definitely remember the coloured tabs that signified the next level.
On the subject of reading in Primary School; at the same there was also a regular mail order service to purchase books(Scholastic Books publisher I think). There were two levels of catalogues that pupils took home to pester parents to give permission. I preferred these to the SRA system.
Glad you were able to find this and dig up some memories! I don't remember the other Publishers you mentioned. Either way, they all helped us become good good readers!
Wow! We had this system in the 1970s, I don't remember much about it apart from motoring through the box, I made it my mission to get through it come hell and/or high water 😂 All hail the gold stars...
I used to read a lot myself across most subjects and I didn't find SRA for English or SRA Maths difficult at all. I saw it more as a social experiment. There were kids who weren't bright enough to do the system and they gradually disappeared to special learning needs class (specials) and the remainder gradually ground their way through the imposing box at varying speeds.
The obvious effect of this was lazy humans looking for a way around doing work, so kids cheated and that set them up for life as "why do something when you can cheat!" The SRA system was so open to abuse and the lazy teachers didn't help matters.
When those kids got to the next schooling level, they had, in effect, spent a year messing around. Now we were put into "sets" for attainment based upon the SRA scores. It was spectacular, the first maths lesson involved Pythagoras and long division. At least 70% of the kids were spinning and trying to copy off each other. I guess these days with the education of kids trashed by COVID lockdowns, there will be similar gaps.
Was SRA a bad system? No, I wouldn't say that. It needed very committed teachers who would be able to deal with a very obvious spread of ability. Many teachers just weren't prepared for the nightmare of measuring kids all the time. This "scientific method" increased their stress levels and that impinged on their ability to teach and to be brutally honest, education should, fundamentally, be teaching kids to have an open mind and to enjoy learning for the rest of their lives.
I teach computer science at degree and post graduate level (with some electronics and physics - with their associated mathematics) and I am saddened by having to cover the basics that should have been learned during the formative years of education.
I have one box of SRA 1969 edition and Im looking to sell it.It breaks my heart to sell it because of the memories .
I have very fond memories of the SRA cards. I learnt English with a combination of them, flash cards and a programme called 'Words And Pictures'. Born in 1972 in Reykjavik, but moved to UK in 1976. I have extremely vivid memories and have been searching for a set from this era ever since the internet really started but without success. If anyone is prepared to sell please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is gold! I just had a friend of mine working at the Lincoln School Library in Argentina, telling me she was organizing a new material that had arrived that seemed awesome: levelled reading books. That immediately brought me back to 1974 when I started school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There in my dear Chapel School, I started this awesome reading system.
As I couldnt remember the name, I googled and found your blog which just like happened to you, I went straight down memory lane and you brought back the name, SRA!
I am so glad that you enjoyed this post and that it brought you back some great memories. Thinking of the '70s brings back so many great memories... we were so fortunate to have grown up in such a great time. I'm really bummed that my book is unavailable right now as my publisher went out of business and left all of us Authors out in the cold. If it becomes available again, I would recommend that you pick up a copy... I am certain that you would enjoy it.
For some reason, I was thinking about this this morning. I manage to continually irritate my spouse with recounts of oddball childhood experiences. (Fortunately he had already gone to work when I started in on this.) I knew someone out there would have a good post or thread on it. Growing up in New England, where a lot of educational materials originate, I though SRA might have been a regional thing, but apparently it's national.
I actually loved SRA--we had it from third to sixth grade with varying degrees of involvement. I was a good student, but reading, especially speed reading, was my weakest link. I'd take the "color placement test" and end up starting at a level with the low-average students, then pass most people to be on one of the higher colors by the end. The only irritating thing was when there was a really interesting one like "What Will 'Space People Look LIke'") and the answer key was missing so you couldn't use it!
Since those years, the only other time I heard about SRA was actually freshman year of college, when I took a writing seminar entitled "Lives and Careers." We read a piece by Joyce Maynard, who was quite young herself at that time but has become a well-known author over the years. In it she mentions her class's trials with SRA--including how they cheated to get to the next color!
I just saw this… I loved the SRA program. I had it in 5th grade, around 1965-66. The best memory I have is the color order. It was aqua, purple, orange, blue, brown, green, red, tan, gold. I have no idea how I remembered that from 54 years ago! I became an excellent reader, and credit much of it to the SRA. 😌
Hi, Steve -
Well - I would never have remembered the color order - way to go! So glad that it was a positive experience for you and that it contributed to your love of reading today!
The Catholic school I attended back in the early 70s heavily invested in SRA kits - not just the Reading Labs but also the kits for math, science and social studies. The boxes were a ubiquitous presence in every classroom in every grade. The science ones were especially fun - they included not just the cards but also whatever parts and accessories were needed to complete the experiment or assignment at hand.
But I do know that those kits had a massively positive impact. The Reading Labs in particular helped get me into a reading habit that continues to this day.
Hey, there -
So glad to hear that the SRA Program was such a positive experience for you! I think it's a shame that we'll never see programs like this that have such huge impact on such a major portion of the population. We can only hope and pray that somehow the generations of today are somehow educated as well as we all were!
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