Finding Your Spot (315 – Going to the Park)

In today’s podcast, we talk about going to the park and finding a nice spot, or small place, to enjoy the scenery and nature. We mention in the “What Else Does it Mean?” section of the Learning Guide that “spot” can have a lot of different meanings, both as a noun and a verb, and in idioms like “to put (someone) on the spot.”

If you ask an average American what they think of when they hear the word “spot,” you may get a surprising answer: a dog. That’s because “Spot” is the name of a dog in a series of readers or short books used in schools with a boy and girl named Dick and Jane. They had a dog named Spot. These readers were used in schools mainly from the 1930s to the 1970s. These books were well known for their repetition, like this:

Dick and Jane 2

These books have been criticized over the years for being too focused on language skills and not on helping children learn to enjoy reading. Teachers and other educators–including Jeff and me–also say that these readers have poor language and uninteresting stories. In fact, some of the language is nonsensical (does not make sense). We do not recommend these readers to people learning English at any level, but they are a part of popular culture in the U.S.

Now when you see a dog or other pet in American movies and TV shows named Spot, you’ll know why, and maybe wonder where Dick and Jane are.

~ Lucy

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6 Responses to Finding Your Spot (315 – Going to the Park)

  1. Hugo says:

    These books would be particularly interesting for Esl students at the first stages of the learning process. the language seems very simple and repetitive. Once the students get the structure, the teacher or the instructor may as well go on more complex and richer context.

  2. Jiwon says:

    It’s a interesting story.
    Koreans also had a similiar children’s book to teach korean language in 1960’s and 1970’s.
    The names of a girl,a boy,and a dog in that book are thought to be old fashioned these days.
    thank you for this interesting blog.

  3. emiliano says:

    I agree completly with you Lucy that it looks like nonsensical reading. It should be more useful to read easy books but with some interest to readers.
    For children I prefer some popular stories of authors like Brothers Grinm, or Christian Andersen previously adapted for them. And for english students
    like us, it is neccesary that the story has humor, adventure or thrilling. When I first read in english I like very much some short Agatha Christie’s adapted books
    to 1ooo or 2000 words and I enjoyed them a lot. Afterward it should be neccesary to read a little more difficult books, with more vocabulary and expressions and so on.
    The Spot books look so old and tenders that may be a trap.
    Thank you Lucy and Jeff for your good recomendations.

  4. Andrej says:

    Hi Lucy,
    I’d like to make a comment on the books for childern.
    I tried to listen to some fairy tales for little kids (in english) and I found it EXTREMELY difficult (example: fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen). They are full of “simple” words I was not familiar with. They were more difficult to anderstand than what I thought.
    For all the readers:
    You can try to download some fairy tales read by native english speakers from the LibriVox web site ( and let me know if you have the same difficulties that I had.

  5. emiliano says:

    Hi Andrej,
    I Know that web site you mentioned, it is pretty good, and I think like you that these fairy tales or other books are difficult to understand as they are readed by voluntary people and some of the readers haven’t good accent or the record isn’t as good as it should be. But I am very obliged to these persons doing their altruism free reading.
    But all people may download the text of the books in another web site that you probably know “Project Gutenberg” //
    in this web site it is possible to download full text of books that are for “public domain”. Fairy tales of H.Chr.Andersen and many other books like Happy Prince of Oscar Wilde etc..
    These two organitations are doing a very good job. I really admire them also these two web sites.
    I think that with the books text previously downloaded and readed it should be more easy to understand the audio reading. Good luck Andrej,

  6. Andrej says:

    Hi Emiliano,
    Thank you for the information. I didn’t know about the “Project Gutenberg” but it’s very useful Web Site.

    By the way, I think it should be very interesting to have a section of the Web site where all the eslpod visitors, english learners, english teachers and anyone else might post some useful free resources for learning English as a second language.


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