- The Letter People
The Letter People is the name of a children's literacy program and the television series based on that program. The term also refers to the various characters depicted in the program and television show.
Elayne Reiss-Weimann and Rita Friedman created The Letter People in 1972. Prior to this, Letter People educational products were copywritten in 1968 and published by New Dimensions in Education, Inc. (located in Plainview, New York). They sold their idea to educational publisher AlphaTime (later AlphaOne), and illustrator Elizabeth Callen was hired to design the look of the series and its characters.
The program's basic concept was simple: Each letter of the English alphabet was represented by a unique character with traits derived from its letter. The consonants were male, and the vowels were female (the "Letter Girls"). Reiss-Weimann, Friedman and Callen also wrote two series of books about the characters, Fables from the Letter People and Read-to-Me. Each Letter Person also had an accompanying song (available on 8-track cartridge and vinyl record), and inflatable vinyl effigies in two sizes (12-14 inches or 30-inch "life-size") known as a "Huggables". Other merchandise included filmstrips and flash cards. Educators who adopted the program were trained in its implementation, and The Letter People was soon picked up by hundreds of schools across the United States.
A little dog is minding his own business when various figures (one carrying a bunch of helium balloons) enter the gates of a place called Letter People Land as the song plays:
Come and meet the Letter People
Come and visit the family
Words are made of Letter People
A, B, C, D, follow me!
While thousands of children were learning about the Letter People in school, thousands of others were being exposed to them through the television series based on the program. The show was produced by PBS member station KETC in St. Louis, Missouri, and the show first went into production in 1972. The show was extremely popular with children, and it quickly spread to other television stations across the country, via syndication, mainly to PBS and educational stations.
The Letter People consists of 60 episodes. In each 15-minute installment, the Letter People (relatively primitive puppets) undertake various adventures in Letter People Land, a dark, featureless place populated by strange people and creatures. Episodes usually focus on introducing new Letter People or new sounds formed by combining two Letter People together (such as /CH/ or /OU/). Other episodes take the Letter People to more exotic (though still featureless) locales such as outer space (eventually, the show would include more standard scenery, like cityscapes, meadows, Miss O's opera house, etc), while a few highlight the characters' conflicts over various sounds (such as Mr. C fighting Mr. K and Mr. S for his sound). Another common feature of the show is "The Catching Game", a game show hosted by Monty Swell (a character based on Monty Hall) where the Letter People must form words by positioning themselves correctly side-by-side.
The show has aired almost continuously since 1972.
- Meet Mister M
- Meet Mister T
- Meet Mister F
- Meet Mister H
- Meet Mister N
- Meet Mister B
- Meet Miss A
- What's the Catch?
- The Tryout
- The Catching Game
- Meet Mister Z
- Meet Mister P
- Meet Mister S
- Meet Miss E
- Meet Miss I
- Meet Miss O
- Meet Miss U
- Meet Mister V
- Meet Mister L
- The Story of Mister V; The Story of Mister S
- The Squoosh
- Meet Mister D
- Meet Mister G
- Meet Mister C
- Meet Mister K
- The Story of Mister C and Mister K; Soft C
- Meet Mister W
- Long Vowel Sounds
- Cooperation (Silent E)
- Adjacent Vowels (Two Vowels Standing Side-by-Side)
- Review I
- Review II
- Review III
- Review IV
- Meet Mister Y
- Y as a Consonant and a Vowel
- Meet Mister J
- Soft G
- Meet Mister R
- Star Trip, part I (AR)
- Star Trip, part II (OR)
- Star Trip, part III (ER, IR, UR)
- Review V
- Meet Mister X
- Meet Mister Q
- The Word Machine
- Chewy Cherry Choo Choo (CH)
- The Thing (TH)
- WH and SH
- Review VI
- The -ING Sound, part I
- The -ING Sound, part II
- Words in Parts, part I
- Words in Parts, part II
- OU and OW
- OI and OY
- Double O (OO)
- AU and AW
- Sentences, part I
- Sentences, part II
In 1990, Abrams & Co. Publishers Inc. of Austin, Texas bought the rights to The Letter People from the previous owner, Norwalk, Connecticut-based New Dimensions in Education, Inc. The company gave the program a major facelift, updating and revising it. They first of all changed the look of the characters and the associated materials. For example, lowercase letters were added to the back of each Letter Person (previously they had been placed on each character somewhat randomly). In 1996 the Abrams Company also made sweeping changes to over half of the Letter People themselves, most obviously equalizing the proportion of male to female characters (vowels are now distinguished by their ability to light up via "LetterLights," which appear as yellow suns on their right shoulders). The men also changed from "Mister" to "Mr.", the women also changed from "Miss" to "Ms.", and all references to "junk food" were deleted (Mr. D's "delicious donuts" were exchanged for "dazzling dance", for example). In addition, any Letter People that Abrams deemed as expressing negative images were changed to be more positive (Mr. H's horrible hair became happy instead, while Mr. X is no longer all wrong (mixed-up), he's "different"). The Letter People storybooks were rewritten with an eye toward teaching conflict resolution and problem solving skills.
The current program is divided into three levels with increasing emphasis on phonics: Let's Begin with the Letter People for preschool, Land of the Letter People for kindergarten, and Lives of the Letter People for first grade. The program is currently taught to about 30 million children.
Though the program is generally well received by educators, some have criticized its strong focus on phonics at the expense of other literacy-building techniques. Others object to the new program more from a sense of nostalgia; those raised on the original version often complain that the new Letter People are too concerned with being politically correct to be fun.
Place where the Letter People live
In the original program in 1974, the place where the Letter People live is "Letter People Land." In the revised program in 1990, the place where the Letter People live is the "Land of the Letter People." In the newly revised program in 1996, the place were the Letter People live, "Land of the Letter People," remained the same but utilized the newer version of the characters.
List of Letter People
Original Program (1974) Characteristic Revised Program (1996) Characteristic Miss A A'choo Ms. A A'choo Mister B Beautiful Buttons Mr. B Beautiful Buttons Mister C Cotton Candy Mr. C Colossal Cap Mister D Delicious Doughnuts Mr. D Dazzling Dance Miss E Exercise Ms. E Exercise Energy Mister F Funny Feet Ms. F Funny Feet Mister G Gooey Gum Mr. G Gooey Gum Mister H Horrible Hair Mr. H Happy Hair Miss I* Itchy Itch; Incredible Inventor Mr. I Impossible Inches Mister J Jumbled Junk Ms. J Jingle Jingle Jacket Mister K Kind Kicking Ms. K Kaboom Kick Mister L Lemon Lollipops Ms. L Longest Laugh Mister M Munching Mouth Mr. M Munching Mouth Mister N Noisy Nose Mr. N Noisy Nose Miss O* Obstinate; Optimistic Optimist Mr. O Opposite Mister P Pointy Patches Ms. P Pointy Patches Mister Q Quiet Mr. Q* Quiet Questions; Questions Mister R Ripping Rubberbands Mr. R Rainbow Ribbons Mister S Super Socks Ms. S Super Socks Mister T Tall Teeth Ms. T Tall Teeth Miss U Upsy-Daisy Umbrella Ms. U Unusual Umbrella Mister V Violet Velvet Vest Ms. V Vegetable Vest Mister W Wonderful Wink Ms. W Wonderful Words Mister X All Wrong (Mixed-Up) Mr. X Different Mister Y Yawning Ms. Y Yodeling Yawn Mister Z Zipping Zippers Mr. Z Zipping Zippers
- Note: The characteristics of Miss I and Miss O changed after The Letter People television series entered production. Therefore, they are known by the names in parentheses on that program.
- Note: The characteristics of Mr. Q changed from "Quiet Questions" to just "Questions" because they wanted to teach children that keeping questions to yourself will not answer them.
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