56b-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-My Book House,Part 2


This posting is a continuation of 56b-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-My Book House, Part 1

The creator and editor of My Book House, Olive Beaupre Miller

Olive Beaupre Miller founded the Book House for Children Publishing Company with the purpose of not only teaching children how to read but to develop good character and choices in literature. She also wanted the stories to teach children about life, values and a variety of cultures as they grew up. Consideration was given to the material in terms of suitability for each stage in a child’s development. Each volume was focused on a certain age for the child and presented vocabulary, concepts and plot structure suitable to that age group.

The company was founded in 1919 and employed a large number of women in various capacities. In 1920 Olive began work on the first series of books that became the first set of My Book House. Her concept was a unique one for the time since there had never been a series that aimed to teach reading skills through an integrated set of volumes that were suitable to each age from early childhood through high school. In addition to My Book House, the company also published a series of books called “My Travel Ship” which focused on the stories and culture of different countries such as Egypt, Arabia, Mexico, Japan, Holland and France. Olive and her husband travelled to each country to research and gather the material included in each volume.

Olive, who was born in Illinois in 1883 and lived in the state throughout her marriage and long career at the company, retired in 1962. She moved in with her daughter Virginia Read who lived in Arizona and remained there until her passing in 1968.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, March 13, 2016 9:30 – 10 a.m.

Uncle Sammy’s childhood leisure time

Uncle Sammy has no recollection of ever reading“The My Book House” volumes as a child. He was more interested in his playing outside. Some of his favorite activities were stoop ball and later on, street hockey.  He also enjoyed swimming, bicycling and roller skating.

As he grew older Uncle Sammy became more well-read.  His preference is for all forms of national and world news; sports; and critiques on wine, cooking, restaurants and fine foods both on-line and in print format.

EmilyAnn’s first journeys into that timeless realm of storyland

The influence of My Book House on my Mom can never be under estimated. She was an expert story teller and could recall many details of each story even though she hadn’t read the books in years. As a child she taught me most of the nursery rhymes from Volume 1, “In the Nursery”. The first countries I learned about after Italy, of course, were Holland and France which were the two books from the Travelship editions that she owned.

By the time I was a pre-teen, the tales of King Arthur were a source of ongoing fascination.  I sometimes envisioned a battle between Queen Guinevere and Morgan Le Fay over King Arthur. At other times I thought Morgan was wasting her magical talents on working harm. She should have picked up and found another King to love her, one who was in search of an enchantress queen.

In college I took coursework on folklore and mythology. I credit the start My Book House gave me. Even now I still think of one of those classes on the Lays of Marie de France. Another discovery at this time were the French fairy tales of Charles Perrault. It really is true that the sooner a child is encouraged to develop good reading habits and the cultivation of an appreciation for a wide variety of genres the better!

Mom was very, very possessive of The My Book House library. It was her gift to me and in turn I was very secretive about where I kept it. The books remained inside a large cabinet in my room. This may account for the lack of fading of the illustrations inside. I do not believe Mom let Uncle Sammy ever go near the books. That is why he has no recollection of them.

The My Book House library is a product of the time period in which it was created. The manner in which some cultures are presented is insensitive and stereotyped. I do think that with an updated, inclusive approach the concept can be adapted for today’s child. The idea of presenting world cultures through their story telling (myths and folklore), music, and art is a good one. I also like the creative play ideas in the volume parents used as a guide to developing their children’s imaginations.

I’m very traditional in this respect but I do believe real books a child can hold and read at any time play a very important part of their development. I also believe using the imagination and learning how to play without the need of too many toys and without any tech objects at all is another way to spur creative thinking in children. I wonder if any young children today go on walks to the park with their mothers and have her ask them if they can see the faces of the dryads in the trees, or hear the fairy song on the wind, or make a wish using a dandelion rather than being given a cell phone to play with?




“My Book House: The Backstory”

by Ms. Kathy

September 22, 2006

My Big Book House (blog)



“Olive Beaupre Miller”




“Olive Beaupre Miller”

Biographical Note

Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections

Sophia Smith Collection

Smith College



“My Book House–memories of my childhood library”

by Kerry Lee, April 30, 2008

A Mental Squint (blog)

My Book House – memories of my childhood library


“The Ultimate Guide to ‘My Book House’ for Homeschoolers”

By Pam Barnhill

edSnapShots (blog)





2 thoughts on “56b-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-My Book House,Part 2

  1. It’s surprising to me that I have never heard of these books, given how much emphasis my mother placed on books and reading when I was growing up. Your mother sounds like she was a wonderful mother. And I agree about today’s children. I see my grandsons mesmerized by screens—TV, iPad, iPhone, etc. It’s hard to get them to pay close attention to a book or game in comparison.

    1. Thank you, Amy.I think that perhaps children today will find ways to use the technology creatively. The main concern I have is whether or not they will develop good habits that encourage concentration and focus.

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