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Title: Teaching Children to Read

Date of first publication: 1914

Author: Paul Klapper (1885-1952)

Date first posted: Aug. 3, 2018

Date last updated: Aug. 3, 2018

Faded Page eBook #20180846

This ebook was produced by: Larry Harrison, David T. Jones, Cindy Beyer & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

















Copyright, 1914, 1916, by



The author feels impelled to set forth the purpose and the scope of this volume, lest the student of education in search of new theories and experimentations in the physiology and the psychology of reading, be led astray. This book is given solely to the task of aiding teachers, who are seeking a method that has stood the pragmatic test, and that may, therefore, help them in their day’s work. The author acknowledges his indebtedness to the large number of teachers from whose methods of instruction, he has gleaned much that is practical in this volume.



I.The Meaning and the Problems of the Teaching of Reading1
II.Physiology and Hygiene of Reading7
III.The Psychology of Reading17
IV.Pedagogy of Reading27
A. When Shall Reading Be Taught?27
B. Basic Aims in Reading32
V.The Basic Methods of Primary Reading36
Evolution of Modern Methods of Primary Reading36
The Synthetic Methods37
The Analytic Methods43
VI.Special Modern Methods of Primary Reading58
VII.The Subject-Matter of Primary Reading82
A. The Primer82
B. Reading to Pupils89
C. Telling Stories to Children92
VIII.Phonics: The Study of Sound Production102
IX.Reading in the Intermediary Grades125
(The Third Year through the Sixth Year)
X.The Teaching of a Masterpiece159
Appendix: Recent Methods of Teaching Reading to Beginners206




Reading Essentially a Problem of Thought Acquisition.—The word “Reading” is traced to the Anglo-Saxon “raedon,” which means “to advise.” “Raedon” referred to the process of searching in books (of bark) for counsel. The Latin “lego” means “to gather,” hence the derived meaning “to gather ideas from written sources.” These etymological definitions, crude and far from the vital problems that must be solved in teaching children to read, nevertheless reflect the essence of the function of reading, viz., “to impart ideas, thoughts, inspirations.” To the ancients, reading was a “mysterie,” a magic art, understood by the shamans and the medicine men. Although the ability to read is today part of every citizen’s educational right, we must, however, realize that it is none the less a “mysterie,” when we consider what a complex psycho-physiological process it is. How can a collection of symbols, static and formal themselves, arouse dynamic thought and living inspiration in the mind of the child?

The Elements of Reading.—I. To Extract Thought.—As far as the classroom is concerned, reading must discharge certain definite functions. We must consider these before we discuss methodology in reading, for they indicate the goal of all method. Classroom reading must seek to develop first, in each child, the ability to extract thought from the printed page. Since this is essentially the object of reading in after life, it must become the governing aim of the teacher’s endeavors. All other aims, such as pronunciation, expression, language, diction, must be subordinated to reading for thought.

2. Proper Vocalisation.—The second function of classroom reading is to develop the ability to properly vocalize, in the words of the author, the thought that was gained; in other words, the ability to read with accurate enunciation, clear articulation, and convincing expression. Here is posited a secondary aim of reading, which, however necessary in the classroom, forms no part of the reading of after life. The teacher finds this added function of reading exceedingly vital. Unless the child has proper vocalization how can she test his ability to recognize symbols, to speak articulately, to utter thought expressively? Through the oral rendition the teacher even learns whether the child has the author’s thought and responds to the emotional appeal. But, in after life, the sole function of reading is the acquisition of thought, while proper oral reading is regarded as a delightful accomplishment. In the final analysis, reading is a means of gaining thought, while oral reading is a means of expressing thought.

3. Literary Appreciation.—But a course of study in reading, the aims of which do not transcend thought acquisition and thought expression, fails in its most vital function. It must strive to develop, in addition, an appreciation of the best in literature. Reading that does not accomplish this end is sterile in those endeavors in which it ought to be most productive. We have left behind the formal conception of education which holds that the school must give only the symbols of knowledge. With such an aim in elementary education reading is complete that teaches how to gain thought and vocalize it correctly. But the scope of education, even of elementary grade, must be more liberal. It must be cultural and inspirational. No school subject is so well adapted to develop this spirit as reading. It introduces the child to the best thoughts and ideals in the life of the race. Its subject-matter, literature, should stimulate the finer emotions, train the imagination, and develop the æsthetic sense. A school course in reading which discharges these functions has fulfilled its raison d’être, for it has given the child the most effective instrument for self-culture and character development. This literary ideal should determine the choice of subject-matter from the very first grade. The school primer, whose inspirational appeal is summed up in “See the black cat!”, “What ails the lock?”, must rapidly become a relic of past pedagogical practice.

Charles William Eliot, of Harvard University, voices the ultimate end of reading in the school when he tells us, “From the total training during childhood, there should result in the child a taste for interesting and improving reading, which should direct and inspire its subsequent intellectual life. That schooling which results in this taste for good reading, however unsystematic and eccentric that schooling may have been, has achieved a main end of elementary education; and that schooling which has not succeeded in implanting this permanent taste has failed. Guided and animated by this impulse to acquire knowledge and exercise his imagination through reading, the individual will continue to exercise himself all through life.” G. Stanley Hall reënforces this statement with, “The prime object of the reading series should not be the cultivation of the art of reading, nor training to good style, nor grammatical or linguistic drill, important as these are, but the development of a living appreciation of good literature and the habit of reading it, rather than bad literature, for with this end all others are secured.”

The Problems in Teaching Children to Read.—With this view of the function of reading, what are the problems that confront us in teaching this art of thought acquisition? To begin with, we must look upon reading as a physiological process, for we must know how these symbols give rise to images on the retina, how the eye moves over this series of symbols, the strain that is experienced, the causes of fatigue and the conditions governing accurate and rapid visual grasp. Reading must be looked upon, secondly, as a psychological process, for the vital questions here are: “How are these visual symbols interpreted into thought?” “How can speed and accuracy of this interpretation be promoted?” And, finally, we must regard reading from its pedagogical aspect, for the teaching problems are many. Reading is an artificial process with artificial symbols. How shall it be made natural to the child? What means of motivation shall we use? Of the imposing array of methods in reading which shall we select, and what shall be the principle of choice? Should ninety-five per cent. of classroom reading be oral, if ninety-five per cent. of the reading of later life is silent? Will this training in oral reading make us proficient in silent reading? Should we train pupils to read slowly and orally in the classroom, in spite of the fact that the reading of mature life is visual and rapid? Does the slow oral reading of the classroom prepare for the rapid visual reading of later days? Is that recitation in reading efficient which requires that all children rivet their eyes on a single paragraph as some unfortunate victim labors through it? Each error makes the pupil more self-conscious and less able to perform the task. What do the other children learn? How much reading does a child learn by listening to others read, even though they be good readers? These are a few of a host of problems that arise in the teaching of the subject. Their answers are vital and make up the pedagogy of reading. The reader’s attention is therefore invited to three successive phases of the subject, which are treated in the chapters entitled, “The Physiology and Hygiene of Reading,” “The Psychology of Reading,” and “The Pedagogy of Reading.”


Arnold, Sarah L. Learning to Read. Silver, Burdett & Co.

Carpenter, Baker and Scott. The Teaching of English, 66-75. Longmans, Green & Co.

Colby, J. R. Literature and Life in the School. Houghton Mifflin Co.

Goldwasser, I. Edwin. Method and Methods in the Teaching of English, chap. I. D. C. Heath & Co.

Huey, Edmund B. The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, chap. I. The Macmillan Co.

Laing, Mary E. Reading; A Manual for Teachers, chap. XXI. D. C. Heath & Co.

McClintock, P. L. Literature in the Elementary School. University of Chicago Press.

[1] The bibliographies at the end of each chapter are not exhaustive. The aim is, rather, to suggest such reading as will amplify and elaborate the various phases of the subject treated in each chapter. Where the publisher is not mentioned, the reader will find the book or the reference listed at the end of a previous chapter.



Processes in Oral Reading.—An analysis of the processes in oral reading will readily show the teacher that they can be summed up under four heads. It is obvious that the first must be visual images of the words in the text. Just as soon as these are formed they call up automatically the second, auditory images of these same words. The mind hears the sounds of the words. These auditory images, in their turn, prompt the third, vocal motor images. The organs used in sound production seem to be set in motion by an imperative command and the sounds are produced. But words have meaning, hence we find, in the fourth place, ideas and imagery arising from a central thought process. In the discussion of the physiology of reading we must begin with the first of these problems, viz., the formation of visual images. The others will be treated in the following chapter, “The Psychology of Reading.”

Eye Movement in Reading.—We must first note carefully that the eye, contrary to the layman’s impression, does not move across the line at a uniform rate, but rather in jerks or short sweeps, pausing at regular intervals at points on the line. The movement of the eye in reading may be graphically represented thus:

Chart A.—Diagrammatic representation of eye-sweeps (1) and pauses (2) of four people reading a line of about three inches.

It is also important to note when the actual reading takes place, whether during the movement or during the pause. Through careful experimentation we find that reading takes place during the pauses, not during the sweeps or glances.

Chart B.—Actual eye-sweeps (1) and pauses (2) of same four people reading same line.

Practical Importance of Eye Movement in Reading.—This physiological fact is important, because it helps us to realize what a fatiguing process reading really is for the child. The average person reads an ordinary page in two or three minutes. To do this about 150 of these eye movements are necessary. Let us try to move a finger or a hand 150 times in so short a given time and then note carefully the fatigue that is experienced. This gives us an idea of the severe strain to which the eye is subjected continuously. It shows us that the eye is an organ designed primarily for the sight that must be achieved in rudimentary society, yet doing twentieth-century work. As the book is brought nearer the eye the number of sweeps over each line decreases, and more is caught at a glance, but as the page recedes from the eye the number of sweeps increases. The page, kept at a proper distance from the eye, therefore makes a greater drain upon the energy of the eye, and the child, instinctively seeking relief, brings the page nearer and nearer, until myopia, “shortsightedness,” sets in. The teacher must realize how much care must constantly be exercised if children are to be kept free from eye ailments that follow in the wake of reading and study.

Regularity of Eye Movement Determines Ease in Reading.—A second important matter in this connection is the fact that ease in reading is produced by motor habits of breaking the lines into a given number of regular pauses and moves, each line showing the same number of stops and sweeps. Lines on a page should therefore be uniform in length and rather short. But a cursory examination of the average popular primer shows that this rule is honored more in the breach than in the observance. Irregular and broken lines seem to be the general law on pages enlivened by pictures. What is the invariable result? The eye is fatigued by the necessity of readjusting itself to a new set of moves and pauses with each varying set of lines. The sooner one acquires a rhythmical movement the surer is he to read with ease, speed, and minimum fatigue. Hence, the ideal page has lines of uniform length—one and one-third times that of the average newspaper line, or 75 to 80 mm.

Limited Length of Eye Sweeps.—Since this rhythm of movement and periodical pauses causes such eye fatigue, we naturally ask, “Why not increase the sweep until it includes the whole line?” This is impossible, for the field of vision is naturally very limited. For those who are not aware of how limited it is, a surprise is in store. Let them select any letter or small word on the page and fix the eye upon it, then try to name the surrounding letters or words. In nonsense syllables four letters are usually caught in one sweep, while seven is an exceptional number. When the letters form words sixteen to twenty can be caught at once. In reading ordinary prose four to six words are included in one sweep. The obvious generalization is therefore: the greater the rational association the more we seem to acquire in a limited time, and the fewer are the eye-sweeps per line. It is therefore necessary to differentiate between what the eye actually sees and what the mind contributes in all reading. This difference will receive more careful consideration in the next chapter, “The Psychology of Reading.”

Importance of the Problem of Optic Fatigue.—The teacher must be familiar with these physiological phenomena of eye movement in reading, because any practice which operates counter to the natural movements of the eye causes reading fatigue, and brings with it dangers that are severe and far-reaching. It is a common experience of the nerve specialist to find that optic fatigue most surely becomes general nerve fatigue. Optic fatigue brings in its wake sick headache, dizziness, digestive disturbances, general debility, and irritability. Serious nervous disorders may have their origin in optic fatigue. “Eye strain is in closest relation to nerve strain . . . we seldom or never have the former without the latter.” When one is physically tired he cannot read. He can listen to music, follow a discussion, and even argue a point, but he turns instinctively from a book. Long reading makes one physically tired, because of the constant nervous drain that is involved in this complex of physiological activities and adjustments.

Causes of Eye Strain and Optic Fatigue.—What is there about the process of reading which brings about this severe nervous drain and its resulting optic fatigue? The conditions are many—so many that a child’s inattention during a reading lesson whose context is not very interesting should not be regarded as an unpardonable offense. Chief among the factors which produce optic fatigue we may name the following:

1. In reading much nervous energy is necessary to adjust the eye for near accommodations. The natural tendency is for the eye to adjust itself to distant vision, and give itself over to the round of varied presentations within its range.

2. In order to get each succeeding phrase of any sentence into the brightest part of the field of vision, the eye moves over the lines by means of the succession of sweeps and pauses that were considered. This is the greatest single factor in nervous strain caused by reading.

3. During reading the eye muscles are not in motion nine-tenths of the time. But, while they are motionless, they are strained, trying to hold the eye in focus, so that each visual grasp of the line will fall on the most sensitive area of the retina. This strained rest is far more fatiguing than ordinary movement.

4. In the reading position the muscles of the neck are strained to hold the head in proper position. This adjustment, when continued for a protracted period, causes an obvious nervous strain. Brain energy is thus reduced and mental vitality is lowered.

5. The forward bend of the head produces a blood congestion which aggravates the symptoms just noted in preceding causes.

6. Prolonged reading periods in ill-lighted rooms, and in seats and at desks that are poorly adapted to the children, cause myopia, which is a constant drain upon neural energy. Myopia is not only an eye deformity but it is also a progressive disease.

In the light of the seriousness of eye strain and the prevalence of its causes, we see the need of books that meet hygienic requirements in print and in arrangement. To continue putting the prevailing books into the hands of children is to court optic fatigue, general nervousness, and myopia. We must, therefore, decide on the hygienic requirements of a book before we consider its pedagogical merits.

Hygienic Requirements of Properly Printed Books.—1. The Size of the Type is the Most Important Single Factor.—There is an unmistakable and an unvarying law for size of type, viz., as the type decreases in size optic fatigue increases. The effects of insufficient illumination are less marked than those of undersized type. Legibility of type is determined by a number of considerations which must be observed by the makers of textbooks: (a) the thickness of the vertical stroke, (b) proper spacing between vertical strokes, (c) proper spacing between the lines, (d) clearness of the tops of letters, (e) proper size. The standard for the size of type which has met the approval of most specialists in the hygiene of reading is clearly formulated by Shaw, in his “School Hygiene” (p. 178). Its requirements and illustrations follow:

“For the first year the size of the type should be at least 2.6 mm., and the width of leading 4.5 mm., as shown in this example:

Little drop of dew,


  Like a gem you are;


I believe that you


  Must have been a star.

“For the second and the third year, the letters should not be smaller than 2 mm., with a leading of 4 mm. Some of the more carefully made books for the second and the third years are printed in letters of this size, as shown in the following example:

     Children of eight and nine should not


read type smaller than this.

“For the fourth year, the letters should be at least 1.8 mm., with leading of 3.6 mm., as follows:

     Children in the fourth school year should read


type of this size and appearance.

“For some grades succeeding this, the type should be kept well above the minimal requirements for adult readers.”

2. The Length of the Line is the Factor Next in Importance.—Short and uniform lines, measuring between seventy-five and ninety millimeters, are demanded by most expert investigators. Ninety millimeters is most favored. A full line in this book measures about 90 millimeters. The short line saves a number of eye movements, for the eye begins each line at a point indented, and it stops at a point some distance from the end of the line. Experiments show that we have a greater visual grasp when the lines are short than when they are long. Another cardinal requirement here is absolute uniformity in the length of the lines.

3. Books should be small enough to be held in the hand.—Books that are large and heavy are usually placed on the desk. The angle of vision is now changed, and the letters, becoming foreshortened, are thus practically reduced in size.

4. The Character of the Paper is Also Very Important.—The most legible print is produced by making the strongest contrast between the color of the print and that of the paper. Since black on a white background forms this contrast in color, only good white paper should be used in the manufacture of school books. Unusual care should be taken to keep out of the school, books printed on glossed paper. The cheap paper with a sheen, that makes up so many of our school textbooks, gives a play of light that is most aggravating to the eye. An equally important requirement insists that the paper have a minimum thickness of .075 mm., so that the print on one side will not show on the other.

Boards of Education to Standardize Books.—In the light of these hygienic demands, how many of the class textbooks are up to standard? An examination with the aid of a millimeter measure and a magnifying glass will show to principals and teachers an amazingly low percentage. But books properly printed need not cost appreciably more. Only when Boards of Education have adopted a standard will publishing concerns refrain from continuing the publication of books that rob eyesight and cause an inexcusable nervous drain. Indifference to matters so vital to health and efficiency is unpardonable.


Cohen, H. The Hygiene of the Eye. The Midland Educational Co. (Ltd.), Eng.

Dresslar, T. B. School Hygiene, chap. XV. The Macmillan Co.

Huey, Edmund B. Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, chaps. II, III, XX, XXI.

Shaw, Edward R. School Hygiene, chap. IX. The Macmillan Co.

Taylor, J. S. Principles and Methods of Teaching Reading, chaps. II, VIII. The Macmillan Co.



Inner Speech in Reading.—We come now to a more complex problem, the psychology of reading, which studies how the visual impression of the word stimulates the auditory image, thus bringing about meaning and interpretations. Because there is an inseparable association between a word and its sound there is always a problem of inner speech. Just as soon as a visual image of a word is recognized in consciousness an auditory image of it arises, and these two prompt an instantaneous verbal-motor expression. Hence the conclusion of investigators is, “In visual reading the auditory and the motor centers work along” (Messmer). Purely visual reading is not normal. We have here, therefore, an explanation of the prevalent practice, in early reading, of lip movement. This method of reading is not acquired by the children; it is the result of the natural tendency to give expression to any idea in the mind. No sooner does the mind become conscious of the meaning of the symbol which it sees than the organs of speech give expression to it. Reading without lip reaction is an acquired art, a habit to be cultivated. But, even when there is no apparent lip movement, there is a muscular reaction going on in the throat, which can readily be detected by the trained observer and his instruments.

The preceding discussions concerned themselves with eye reading. In the present chapter we must turn our attention to a second form of reading—mental reading. These two forms of reading, eye reading and mind reading, must be differentiated very clearly. Because the child, who is learning to read, speaks and hears his native language, he has a feeling for its structure, form, and cadence. It follows, therefore, that most of the expression, the stops at sense pauses, the intonations, etc., in the child’s speech, are due to associations formed long ago. In reading “since he” the child naturally expects “he therefore”; likewise “not only” calls up “but also”; “as”—“as”; “neither—nor”; “if—then,” etc. The mind, therefore, makes a liberal contribution to what the eye brings; a reader perceives mentally more than the eye brings in any one sweep. Since this mental expectancy makes the mind a more rapid reader than the eye, it follows that one often has the meaning of a sentence before the eye has formed a retinal image of the end of it.

Relation of “Rate in Reading” to Thought Acquisition in Reading.—The practical teacher may now ask, “Why stop at the problems of inner speech in reading, and mental vs. visual reading?” These two questions are important, because they determine a most vital factor in reading as a process of thought-getting, viz., “Rate in Reading.” From actual observation we find that there are great discrepancies in the rate of reading among individuals; the variations show a usual ratio of 1:3, or even 1:4. In other words, it is usual to find among people of the same class, experience, and education individuals who read three or four times faster than others. Generally speaking, the rate in reading is determined by the rhythmical sweeps of the eye over a line; but the rate of rhythmic sweeps is, in its turn, modified by inner speech and mental grasp. The impatient teacher, confronted by actual problems in the teaching of reading, may insist: “What if there is such discrepancy—aside from the time consumed, what is its importance? After all, is it not more important to consider what we read and what we get out of it, than how much or how fast we read?”

The answer, surprisingly, is in the negative. Rapid readers are the more intelligent readers; they gain more intensive and more vivid impressions than slow readers. Those who indulge in lip movement, in auditory aids and the like are not only less extensive but also less intensive readers. Evidence to prove this contention is so great that we need argue the matter no further but examine the conclusions of various impartial observers:

“Experiments show that half-second exposure of a word is more advantageous than a whole second, and one second more advantageous than two. . . . When printed matter was exposed for a short time, about one one-hundredth of a second, more could be read or the same amount could be read more easily, than when the exposure was longer.”[2] “Rapid readers remember more of the original thought, and the character of their reproductions is much higher, both generally and with reference to expression and logical content.”[3]

“It might be supposed that greater rapidity was gained at the sacrifice of exactness or of intelligence. This supposition is negatived by an examination of the amount and quantity of the material reproduced. A comparison between the ten most rapid readers and the ten slowest shows that the rapid readers remember more of the original thoughts, and that the character of their reproduction is much higher, both generally and with reference to expression and logical content. In the auditory tests the ratio of slow to rapid readers is 14.8 per cent. to 20.7 per cent. in the number of thoughts. In quality the percentages are 47.8 for slow readers, 60.3 for fast. The same comparison in the visual tests results as follows: Percentage of thoughts reproduced by slow readers, 14.9; by rapid, 24.4. Quality: Slow, 48 per cent.; rapid, 73.3 per cent. The difference in favor of the ‘rapids’ is consequently much greater than in auditory tests, indicating again that rapid readers are, as a rule, of the visual type. . . .

“To emphasize this relation a comparison of extremes might be shown as follows: The ten slowest readers show almost double the amount of lip movement that the ten most rapid do. Or, again, determining the rate by means of lip movement, we have: the ten most decided lip movers read 4.1 words per second; that is, they are between the classes ‘slow’ and ‘very slow’ and nearer to the latter; while the ten who show least movement of lips read 5.6 words per second, very close to an average rapid.”[4]

Why the Slow Reader Is the Less Thoughtful One.—“Regarding language as an apparatus of symbols for the conveyance of thought, we may say that, as in a mechanical apparatus, the more simple and the better arranged are the parts, the greater will be the effect produced. In either case, whatever force is absorbed by the machine is deducted from the result. A reader or listener has at each moment but a limited amount of mental power available. To recognize and interpret the symbols presented to him requires part of this power; to arrange and combine the images suggested requires another part; and only that part that remains can be used for realizing the thought conveyed. Hence the more time it takes to receive and understand each sentence, the less time can be given to the contained idea, and the less vividly will the idea be conceived.”[5]

Conclusions for Teaching.—The relation of rate of reading to intelligence of grasp implies important conclusions for methods of teaching in both early and later grades. The first inference that we can make is that a method of reading must start from the very beginning to teach instantaneous recognition of words, either as a whole or as part of larger language units, phrases or sentences. Any method which begins reading by teaching the child to examine each word, to analyze it into component phonograms, to sound each phonogram, to combine these sounds to get the word, places a premium on lip movement and unnecessary audible aids, and promotes slow, ponderous reading, which develops into habits that defy later efforts at correction. Our objection to synthetic methods, like the Pollard Method and the Emma K. Gordon Method is that they manifest these shortcomings. Methods like the Aldine, the McCloskey, the Progressive Road, and, in a minor way, the Ward Rational System, seek to avoid these dangers. The child must learn to read words in logical sequence, words as wholes, naturally and expressively. Only when proper and natural speed and expression are developed are the analytical and phonetical elements and processes taught.

A second conclusion that the observations of “rate in reading” teach is that, since the mind reads faster than the eye, the learner must be taught to neglect the word and the phrase and seek the thought; in other words, the word-symbols must be subordinated to the meaning. We must make the eye as sensitive and efficient a tool for thought-getting as the ear. In listening to a speaker, if there is nothing unusual about his choice of words or pronunciation, we are hardly conscious of the words; we busy ourselves with the thought. We have thus trained ourselves unconsciously in life, to neglect auditory words and seek meaning. In the same way, the method of reading in the elementary school must seek to make the eye so sensitive to meaning that in scanning a page it becomes as unconcerned with printed words as the ear is with auditory symbols. The child must learn that words are like our eye-glasses—they are of greatest service when we look through them, not at them. The printed page must ever be like a glass which we do not see, but through which we see thought.

The Fetish of Oral Reading.—If we grant this conclusion then we must change the relative emphasis on oral and silent reading, and give to the latter the prominent place accorded the former in present-day practice. Not only do we place too great an emphasis on oral reading, but we begin it too early in the school life of the child. The popular superstition is that plenty of drill in oral reading in the classroom prepares for efficiency in silent reading in the post-school days. Let us examine this contention psychologically. Efficiency in silent reading is determined by the development of a mental habit to associate instantaneously the visual image of the word with the thought. In all oral reading the visual image must associate itself with the auditory image; these, then, bring a recognition of the idea represented by the symbol. The final link in this long chain is the verbal-motor expression. Graphically, the associations in these two forms of reading may be expressed in the following symbols: Silent Reading: Visual Image—Thought. Oral Reading: Visual Image—Auditory Image—Idea—Verbal Motor Image. The brain centers that operate, and also the mental associations and stimulations, are different in the two forms of reading. An overemphasis on oral reading, therefore, trains the mind to make the long circuit, and thus unfits the individual for efficient reading in later life. The earlier we develop the short circuit habit of “visual image, thought,” in our children, the sooner are we making them efficient and intelligent readers. Many writers would go so far as to insist that oral reading should be the exception rather than the rule, and should be tolerated in the class only as an expression of a thought gained or sentiments enjoyed during the lesson. This is obviously an extreme attitude.

These educators justify their plea for a postponement of oral reading on the ground that the steps in oral reading are: (1) instantaneous recognition of symbols, (2) extraction of the thought, (3) expression of the thought. Hence no effective oral reading can take place unless the child has developed reliable ability and undoubted mastery of rapid symbol interpretation and thought extraction. This capability must necessarily come after long, laborious effort. It is because children are asked to read without guaranteeing this ability that real expression is not only impossible but is undermined permanently. The blame for the stiff, stilted, artificial oral reading of the elementary school must be laid at the door of premature oral reading.

A third lesson that this psychological study teaches us is that from the very beginning the work in primary reading must be conducted in such a way as to develop (1) speed, (2) accuracy, (3) direct association between printed symbol and idea, omitting the auditory image. Therefore, in asking children to read early blackboard exercises, the time during which the sentence or phrase or word is exposed should be limited. The subject-matter to be read is shown and then quickly erased or covered. Instead of reading the assigned sentence orally after this limited exposure, let the child give evidence of the possession of the thought in ways other than verbal. Thus the first rhyme of the Aldine Method, “Come, come away and play” is shown. Two children are called, “A” takes “B” by the hand and attempts to lead him away to play. “Have you a knife?” is the sentence given to another lad to read. He looks at it, “sees” the thought, and then says, “Yes, Miss ——, I have a knife.” “The soldiers are marching down the street,” is an assignment to the next pupil. Instead of reading it aloud, he gives evidence of the thought by marching down the aisle like a soldier. In all these exercises the endeavor is to train the child to omit the auditory image, to develop speed in reading and to read for thought. Such drills are a source of absorbing interest to the children and develop a basis of correct habits upon which the teacher can confidently build.


Balliet, Thomas M. Association of Ideas in Reading. National Education Association, 1893.

Dearborn, W. F. Psychology of Reading. Columbia University Contributions to Philosophy and Psychology, V, XIV, No. 1.

Huey, E. B. Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, chaps. IV, V, VI, VII, VIII.

Laing, Mary E. Reading; A Manual for Teachers, chaps. X, XI, XIX, XX.

Taylor, J. S. Principles and Methods of Teaching Reading, chaps. I, III.

O’Shea, M. V. Linguistic Development, pp. 163-230. The Macmillan Co.

[2] Huey. “Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading.”

[3] Quantz. Psychological Review, ii, 28, 38. The degree in which the rapid readers excel the slow in eyemindedness can perhaps best be understood by a comparison of extreme classes. The “very slow readers” (3.9 words per second) reproduce 89.1 per cent. as much of the visual selection as the auditory, while the very “rapid readers” (7.3 words per second) are able to recall 123.2 of visual for every 100 of auditory; that is, the ratio of reading rates between the slowest and the fastest readers is 3.9 to 7.3 (1:1.87), while the ratio of visual tendency as compared with the auditory is 89.1 to 123.2 (1:1.38). On the principle of correlations this result shows eyemindedness to be a rather strong factor in the determination of reading rates.

[4] Quantz. Ibid.

[5] Spencer. Philosophy of Style.




A popular question of the day among theoretical educators is when to begin to teach elementary reading. Their conclusions show remarkable unanimity, for writers like Dewey, Huey, Laing, McMurry, Mary Putnam Jacobi and Parker insist on the elimination of reading in the first three years of school life. One naturally questions their position. In the main their arguments are fivefold:

1. The Hygienic Considerations.—We saw the dangers of eye fatigue and eye strain in reading, how ill adapted the eye seems to be for the purposes that present-day civilization imposes upon it. Hence it is argued that the young child should be relieved of the attending physiological dangers in learning to read. But we must realize the inevitable fact that the eye must be accustomed to read, must learn to adjust itself to twentieth-century needs. If books were printed in accordance with hygienic prescriptions the attending dangers would be greatly minimized.

2. Psychological Considerations.—Those educators who insist that children in the first three years of the school course should not be taught to read base their position on psychological grounds. In the first place, they argue that coarser adjustments must be made before the finer ones, that the fundamental muscles must be controlled before the delicate peripheral ones. The muscles of the body in general, those in the arms, hands, legs, etc., should be made sensitive and ready to coördinate with the mind before we develop in the child the ability to attend to the more delicate coördinations. Their second psychological objection is that concrete knowledge must be acquired before symbols are taught. Hence the opponents of early reading insist, why not teach the facts of nature, of local geography, of industry, of manual work, before giving the symbols for thought-getting in reading. That bad mental habits are developed is another argument of this school. The child is too young to concentrate upon such work, hence mind wandering is encouraged, and the powers for application are undermined. These exercises in symbol interpretation are opposed to the cravings and interests characteristic of the young child, and there is constant aversion rather than attraction. A final psychological objection which these educators advance is that, with the very young child the whole process is an unintelligent one. The processes in reading are too difficult, and they hold that all mental activity goes to the recognition of symbols, rather than to the thought which they symbolize. They argue that this explains the frequency, among children, of expressionless reading, constant stumbling and word-reading, rather than thought acquisition,—in a word, the wrong habits of reading that defy the teacher’s effort.

3. Social Considerations.—These opponents of early reading tell us that for sociological reasons the prevailing custom of initiating the young child into the mysteries of symbols is unsound pedagogy. Life today, they argue, is industrial and manual. Bookishness is not a characteristic of modern social organization. Reading is too individual a process for the young child, whose life and outlook are intensely self-centered. We must teach the social duties and social relations of life. This seems an imposing indictment against our system of primary reading, but our very social life is the main justification for elementary reading in the beginning of school life. The efficiency of our mails, the universality of the newspaper, the multiplicity of worthy publications, the unprecedented facilities of the public libraries, and cheap printing make reading a positive necessity that must be answered as soon as possible. Reading and writing need not monopolize the first three years of elementary training; there need be no reading fetish. But withal, reading deserves an important place in these grades. It is inappropriate to apply the term, “bookishness” to such work. Once the child has learned to read, he has a source of infinite joy and rich culture. In spite of all that is said to the contrary, there is nothing individualistic in this pleasure. Reading is a very social process; it acquaints the child with the thoughts and the lives of others, and breaks the confining bonds of the child’s personal life.

4. The Culture Epoch Theory Against Early Reading.—This theory of recapitulation, when applied to education, has been interpreted to mean that each individual should be taken through those stages through which the race passed in its development. The early life of man concerned itself with the concrete; it knew only oral speech; man himself was ear-minded, not eye-minded, in language. Hence, these educators conclude that all language work in the early grades must be exclusively oral. While all these characterizations of early society are true, we must, nevertheless, realize that, to prepare the child for present and future life, we teach the needs of existing and not of past society.

5. Pedagogical Considerations.—The advocates for the postponement of the teaching of reading bring, finally, pedagogical considerations to bear out their contention. Why spend so much time and effort on a task that can be accomplished in less time and to greater advantage when the child is two or three years older? The child is a motor animal, with interests that are manual and practical. He turns from the early phases of reading because the work is too formal and lacks vital motive. Here, too, we find an array against early reading which is not as true and as far-reaching as is often supposed. True, reading can be taught the child of ten with greater ease than the child of six, but so can any other serious subject; therefore, why not postpone all school work? The child is a motor animal, but, despite this prominent characteristic, he has other interests as well. He is curious; he loves the story; he has a dramatic sense, a feeling for rhythm, etc. Although the child experiences no “personal hunger” for reading, the problem, approached carefully, need not be the arbitrary lesson it is made out to be. The love for the story, and the desire for the acquisition of a practical art, the social use of which the child sees daily in his immediate life, serve to motivate early reading lessons. By erroneous methods and unattractive devices, teachers often kill the vital interest which children bring to this work. This argues, not the postponement of reading, but a decided and immediate reform in methods of teaching reading. Despite the long imposing series of arguments to the contrary, the writer feels that reading should be taught at an age as early as the child will allow. Experience shows this to be about the age of seven. Reading is the “open sesame” to those ideals, inspirations and joys of the past, which have been crystallized in literature. The mechanics of reading entail a mastery of arbitrary and uninteresting symbols. The sooner the drudgery is finished, and we present to our children the vital elements of reading, the surer are we to implant an appreciation of true literature. A cursory perusal of the educational statistics concerning elimination and overage shows that an alarmingly increasing number of children joins the industrial and commercial ranks at the end of the sixth school year. If reading is postponed to the beginning of the fourth year, we shall send out a large percentage of the school population woefully handicapped. In the final view, the practical needs of the community, rather than subtle psychological analyses, must determine the organization of educational systems and their curricula.


There are two contending conceptions that govern methods of teaching reading to children in the early grades. One strives to make reading a formal or mechanical process, the other looks upon reading as a cultural or educational influence. The method that a teacher follows gains its life and spirit from the point of view that she takes toward her work. Unconsciously she interprets every phase of her work in terms of it. We must, therefore, consider the contending viewpoints in teaching reading.

Formal Reading.Educational or Thought
  1. Reading must always be looked upon as an end in itself.  1. Reading justifies itself only because it is a means to a higher end, viz., thought.
  2. Reading is a technical process, and as such is concerned with giving the child a mastery of the tools, the symbols, by means of which we gain thought. Aside from this technical ability the teacher of reading need have no other care nor concern.  2. Reading must be looked upon as a process of thought-getting, of learning to express thought, of increasing one’s language stock. The mastery of symbols must be incidental and of subordinate interest.
  3. Since reading is a mechanical process, it must be taught as an arbitrary process through hard memory drills. No reason, no motive need be given.  3. As a thought-getting process, reading must always start from a conscious need felt by the child. His love for the story, his desire to know how to read, will rationalize the work.
  4. To speak of getting thought without making reading a process of symbol interpretation is absurd. Children leave school hampered in their ability to extract the thought from the printed page because their knowledge of symbols, phonics, word analysis, etc., is so vague that the deficiencies in the formal aspect of reading make impossible progress in the rational.  4. True, thought-getting is simplified and even made possible only in proportion as the symbols are turned into habit. But the child should begin by reading for thought. All technicalities must be based upon the work thus mastered.
  5. That the sentence is the unit of mental grasp, and the word the unit of visual grasp, if the oft-quoted law; hence a mastery of words must precede a mastery of the sentence.  5. If the aim of reading is to develop the ability to extract thought from the printed page, and if the sentence is the unit of thought, then the child ought to be taught to read sentences first and then to master the words that make them up.
  6. Reading must be a synthetic process; begin with a study of phonics, phonograms, sounds; combine these so that the child learns to read any new word. Typical of the methods conceived in this spirit is the Gordon or the Pollard Method.  6. Teach reading as an analytical process; the sentence must be mastered before the word, and the word before the phonogram. The McCloskey Method, The Farnham Method, The Aldine, The Progressive Road are typical illustrations.

Conclusion.—Despite the sharp line of demarcation that each school seeks to draw, we see that neither has a monopoly of pedagogical wisdom. If we unite these two tendencies we evolve a composite method which insures thoughtful, expressive reading, fluent and smooth, and which also develops that mastery of the technique of symbols that is absolutely essential. A method must begin with thought acquisition. The text of this reading is analyzed and is made to yield material for the study of phonograms, which are basic in independent word recognition. In making our final recommendation for a modern, progressive and pedagogical method of teaching reading in the primary grades, we shall again refer to this standard.


Carpenter, Baker and Scott. Teaching of English, 75-80. Longmans, Green & Co.

Chubb, Percival. The Teaching of English, chap. V. The Macmillan Co.

Dewey, John. The Primary Education Fetish. Forum, V, 315-328.

Hosic, James F. Elementary School Course in English, 35-42. University of Chicago Press.

Huey, E. B. Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, chaps. XV, XVI.

Laing, Mary E. Reading: A Manual for Teachers, chap. II.

Taylor, J. S. Principles and Methods of Teaching Reading, chap. IV.




The Multiplicity of Primary Methods.—The student of methodology is bewildered by the numerous and diversified methods that have been evolved for teaching children to read. This multiplicity shows clearly that the problem of primary reading is an exceedingly difficult one, and that many of the current methods are ill adapted to meet the needs of the practical classroom teacher. In this vast array of methods we can discern six that are basic in so far as they contribute a distinct idea in the progressive development of methods of teaching primary children to read. These basic methods are grouped under two main headings, the Synthetic vs. the Analytic Methods. The subdivisions of these can readily be seen from the following table:

Table of Basic Methods of Primary Reading
Synthetic MethodsAnalytic Methods
Word BasisThought Basis
  Sentence UnitStory Unit
All Modern Methods are Combinations and Modifications of These.

The simplest sequence in this evolution of method is the historical one; we shall examine each of these methods critically in the chronological order.


I. The Alphabetic Method.—The underlying principle of the alphabetic method is that the combination of letters will give the word which is the unit of utterance. The method, therefore, teaches the alphabet and then proceeds to develop a mastery of monosyllables by a method of oral spelling, c, a, t, cat; m, a, n, man, etc., are learned by verbal repetitions, reënforced by visual appeals from the blackboard or charts on which these symbols are written or printed. This is the time-honored method which has taught mankind how to read.

Limitations of the Alphabetic Method.—Despite its great service in the past, the alphabetic method must be set aside today for many serious reasons. (1) It is thoroughly unpedagogic, beginning, not with what the child knows, with words, or sentences, but with unknown names of meaningless letters. (2) It is illogical in its basic principle, because only combination of the sounds of the letters will give the word; a combination of the letters d, o, g will give dee, o,o,o, g, g, but never the word “dog.” The more logical procedure is, therefore, to teach the sounds and make the names incidental. It is true that children will eventually infer the sounds of letters from their names, but this makes accidental such knowledge as should be focal in the course of instruction. (3) This method is exceedingly tedious, because of its absolute disregard of content and because of its utter neglect of the child’s interest and viewpoints toward life. (4) As a final indictment of the method it must be urged that it is unduly difficult. Actual test will soon convince the teacher that children will remember the word-pictures “father,” “mother,” “doll,” more readily than the names of the letters “f,” “h,” “t,” etc. The reason is simple. In the case of the word-picture the child associates an arbitrary symbol with a known name, but in the case of the letters both name and symbol are unknown. The obvious conclusion, therefore, counsels that reading begin at the point of contact, i. e., with those elements that are part of the child’s knowledge and interests.

It is because of these serious defects that the alphabetic method has been relegated to the pedagogical scrap heap. It does not follow that the alphabet should not be learned. It is an aid in spelling, and very necessary for business purposes, for filing of records, for finding data in directories, telephone books, dictionaries, etc., and should not be neglected. But the alphabet should not be imposed before the second year, when its need is felt in spelling.

II. The Phonic Method.—The basic fallacy of the alphabetic method suggests the underlying principle of the phonic method, which holds that since the sounds of letters uttered rapidly will give the word, teaching must begin with the functions, not the names, of letters. In the final analysis the method is like its predecessor, except for the fact that the child is taught to call the letter by its sound rather than by its name. In all other respects, the same rigorous, synthetic process is followed, with the same utter neglect of content and emphasis on form. The Emma K. Gordon Method is a modern application of this principle of reading.

Despite the fact that this principle found wide recognition and application in comparatively recent times, it must not be inferred that the phonic method is a modern inspiration. Ickelsamer is usually credited as the originator, in 1534. He taught reading by an interjectional method, which associated letters with animals whose characteristic sounds suggested the sound of the letter, or with pictures that suggested the sounds of letters. R was shown with a picture of a dog whose angry brrr suggested the sound of r; sch was seen on a picture of children chasing geese, because the sound which would frighten the animals suggested the sound of sch. The Jansenites (Port Royalists), Buno, Rousseau, Basedow, Pestalozzi, these are only a few names of a host of educators who elaborated the phonic method and introduced the play element, very often to a ludicrous extent.

Advantages of the Phonic Method.—For this system of reading we must urge that (1) it is more logical to teach the functions than the names of letters; (2) it gives the child a more trained ear and a better articulated speech; (3) it is an aid in spelling, even in our unphonetic language, and (4) it teaches the child how to attack a word whose form is absolutely new to him.

Limitations of the Phonic Method.—But this method, when applied to English, is very often ineffective. In the first place, it makes the function of letters focal, but the sound of letters is precisely the least fixed element in our language; the sounds of letters vary to an exasperating degree. Our thirteen vowel sounds can be expressed in one hundred and four different ways: the sound of ō is found in float, yeoman, sow, sew, soul, sole, beau, owe, etc.; ea boasts of an equally rich variety of sounds. In many cases a letter may become altogether silent.

A second serious limitation of the method is found in the fact that it may encourage stammering among young children whose coördinations are still unformed and who show a tendency to linger on labials, dentals, and liquids. Any method which teaches reading by a process of phonic synthesis aggravates a tendency which the teacher must assiduously strive to eliminate. For this reason students of methodology and expert investigators like Huey and Hughes are unalterably opposed to this method. Bell calls the school that uses phonic synthesis a nursery for stammering. Class teachers bring practical evidence which bears out this indictment against phonic synthetic methods.

Thirdly, it is apparent that this method is no less unpedagogical than the alphabetic, because it, too, begins, not at the point of contact between the child and reading, but at the most painful point, phonics. This explains why the child finds it exceedingly difficult to retain a set of arbitrary sounds for a series of symbols that are meaningless. Actual experience proves that the child remembers the arbitrary names of letters more easily than the arbitrary sounds.

Final Estimate of the Phonic Method.—In the light of the initial conception of reading as a process of thought acquisition, it is obvious that the method of phonic synthesis is not a reading method. It is merely a systematized attempt to give the child a mastery of technical elements in the reading process. As such, it becomes a necessary part of a method in reading, but not a reading method itself. The skilful teacher uses it merely as a preparatory drill, “a gymnastic which is aimed to sharpen the perception for words and sounds.”

III. The Phonetic Method.—The enthusiasts for the phonic method endeavored to save it from what they considered the most important criticism, viz., the variability of the function of letters. They endorsed the basic principle, and the general procedure of the phonic method, and then set themselves to the task of making variable sounds permanent. To do this they evolved a complex system of diacritical marks, and distorted forms of letters. Since the sounds of a vary, then the sound of a, in bake, was represented as ā, in back, as ă, in far, as ä, in ball, as â, etc.; ā was to be taught as differing from ă as much as it does from b or d. If c has two sounds, then c represented one sound and c the other. Much ingenuity was spent in evolving these “fixing marks,” which differed, of course, in each new system of phonetic reading that flooded the school market. The only difference between a phonic and a phonetic method is the “fixing signs,” or the diacritical marks. Reading matter took the form of,

Estimate of Phonetic Method.—It is obvious that while this method gains by fixing the variable functions it loses by increasing the number of symbols almost threefold. It makes no other contribution to the phonic method, and is, therefore, not a whit above it in the pedagogical scale. Fitch and Garlick, among others, find fault with the method because, they argue, it is “illusive and postpones the real difficulty.” When the symbols are printed the child can read, but just as soon as a book without these hieroglyphics is presented, the child is lost; he was made dependent on a set of aids. This argument against the phonetic method is not borne out by actual practice, nor by psychological evidence. Children who for two years have read in a book printed with all the diacritical aids will, when given a page without these, read without any notice of the absence of the auxiliary marks. This actual result finds its explanation in the fact that we read words as a whole, not by the synthesis of component sounds or symbols. In the final analysis, the phonetic method contributes a device, not a rational system of reading.


Essentials of a Modern Method—1. A Vital Point of Contact: Reading to Begin in Real Content.—All synthetic methods, whether alphabetic, phonic, or phonetic, suffer from the same inherent limitation which militates against ultimate success. They all fail to realize that reading cannot be made vital to children unless it begins in their lives, in their needs, and in the problems that present themselves for urgent solution. No child feels an urgent craving for a mastery of letters or sounds; all normal children are consumed by a desire for the story, with its alluring “once upon a time.” A modern method of reading begins with a language unit that represents some idea, or image. Just what this language unit shall be is a source of much contention. To some, therefore, the word is a proper beginning; to others, the sentence with its complete thought seems a more rational initiatory step, while to a third group, the story must be the means of introducing the child to the art of reading. Typical of these three views, we find the Ward, the Farnham, and the McCloskey methods, respectively. We shall presently turn to a detailed consideration of each of these.

2. Reading an Analytic Process.—A second requisite of a modern system of reading is that it should begin by a method of “look and say.” The child is shown a word or a sentence, and is taught to recognize this, not by a synthesis of letters or sounds, but by the appearance of words as wholes. Reading is therefore analytic in its nature.

3. Phonic or Phonetic in Its Analytic Development.—A third essential insists that, after the mastery of words by a purely sight method, the child should learn the sounds of the symbols that are used. Whether the method be phonic or phonetic, it is absolutely necessary that the study of symbols be an outgrowth of the stock of sight words that the child mastered.

A method of reading that possesses these three basic essentials is not inevitably a satisfactory one. But a method that violates any one of these principles is so lacking in sound pedagogical organization that it makes impossible the development of proper habits in reading.

I. The Ward or Rational Method of Reading.[7]—1. Underlying Principle.—The Ward Method holds that a word is recognized by its appearance as a whole, but words are also the unit of oral speech; hence, all reading should begin by a mastery of a stock of useful sight words. The Ward Method is frequently advertised as a sentence method. While it can readily be turned into such, we must remember that the author of the method says in his manual: “The Rational Method is a peculiar combination of the word and the phonetic method. . . . The word method is used first as principal, because of its value in developing a habit of thought-getting, and afterward as auxiliary.”

2. Organization of the Method.—In its general organization the method consists of four parts: (a) sight reading; (b) the phonetic drill and the blend; (c) the reading in books; (d) writing and spelling.

a. Sight reading: The method begins by teaching a list of about eighty sight words. Typical of these are: ail, all, old, an, and, day, ill, take, well, and boy. These words are presented in script on the blackboard, in short sentences. These sentences, “I see,” “I see you,” etc., are unrelated, and aim merely to introduce the words which are always focal. The words selected are such as will lend themselves to useful and varied word drills. The drills on these words continue for a number of weeks until instantaneous recognition and permanent fixation have resulted. The children can now read these words from lists on the board, from perception cards, or in sentences.

b. The phonetic drill and the blend: In order to teach the child to recognize new words independently, the phonetic elements are then introduced. This part of the lesson begins with attempts at ear training, in which the phonetic element to be taught is introduced at various places in a story. The phonogram, e. g., f, is either put on the board and the children told its sound, or the sight word fold is subjected to analysis and the children made to recognize that the word has two parts, ffff being the first. The early phonograms include f, l, m, n, r, s, ā, ē, ō, ing, ight.

The constructive part of the lesson is now introduced. The children, knowing the sounds of m, r, s, l, f, ight, are taught to blend these into might, right, sight, light, fight, etc. After the phonogram old is learned the children blend old elements to produce fold, mold, sold, etc. Thus the ear is trained, oral speech is improved, phonetic elements are learned, the power for independent word reading is given, and the basis for more accurate spelling is laid. If the initial stock of sight words is well chosen, the child has at the end of the first half-year a list of over three hundred words, which enable him to read with a fair degree of ease, stories beyond the abilities of children who were taught for a whole year by a synthetic method.

c. The book: At the beginning all work is limited to script. A transition is now made to the print, either by associating print and script forms, or by associating print form and thought. In the former procedure the teacher puts on the board,



and leads the children from the known script to the unknown print. In the latter method, the teacher prints on the board, “I see you. Do you see?”, and tells the children what these symbols represent. They thus learn the new form, print, by the “look and say” method, which taught them the original form, script. After a few preliminary transitional drills, the children recognize the print form and read it as readily as they do the script.

All this work in phonetics is taught with diacritical marks. The three lines of work, sight words, phonetic analysis, and the blend, are carried on through the first three years. In the early part of the second year all the basic phonograms are taught and supplementary readers are introduced. Toward the end of the second year the diacritical marks are eliminated.

d. Writing and spelling: Simultaneously with the reading the child begins his writing and spelling. The method is the same laborious and imitative procedure that is prescribed in most methods of primary reading. It is difficult to understand why spelling which is purely formal and has no relation to reading should be made part of most reading methods. The inclusion of writing at this early stage is justified by the principle of motor appeal and multiple sense teaching, but the attending dangers are many. Writing entails, too, many delicate movements, and too fine a degree of coördination to be begun without a specially prepared series of graded penmanship drills, designed to develop habits of correct posture, form, control, etc. The penmanship drill must be more than a side show of an ambitious system of reading.

3. The Readers.—As is to be expected, a method that centralizes all effort on word recognition presents a primer that is dull, meaningless, and often inane. The round of foolish repetitions of the Ward primer reads, “I see, I see you, Do see, Do see me, Do you see me? Do see Jack, What ails the lock?” etc. But the later readers and the supplementary books are a pleasant and welcome contrast.

4. Estimate of the Ward Method.—Despite obvious limitations the Ward Method shows a step in the right direction. It begins with that part of language which the child uses, though not with the most vital element in the child’s speech. It fosters independence in word recognition, gives training in better articulation, develops a more sensitive ear, aids later spelling, and does much to reduce the tedium of phonics by its careful organization and gradation of the mechanics of reading. But we must remember that it is a method that is mechanical in its inception and mechanical in its whole development. Its highest aims do not transcend word recognition. It therefore lacks inspiration and enthusiasm. The only interest it arouses is the interest that the pupil feels in his progress. Huey, however, says that it is the “most valuable method in effect today, though not in line with the changes to be urged for the elementary school.”

II. The Sentence or Farnham Method.[8]—1. Underlying Principle.—All sentence methods are based on the principle that, in reading, as in all perception, a unit is recognized as a whole, and not by a synthesis of its composing elements. If reading is a process of thought-getting and thinking, then the unit must be an idea. But the language expression of a unit of thought is a sentence; hence rational reading must begin by teaching children to read sentences.

The sentence method found its advocates in Comenius and Jacotot. Not until 1885-1890 did it gain currency in the United States through the efforts of Farnham.

2. The Method.—As elaborated by Farnham, the sentence method entails a procedure somewhat as follows: The teacher makes sure of a thought basis for reading by talking about a number of objects on her desk. “What is this?” she asks, holding up a pen, and the child answers, “This is a pen.” “What have you?” she asks, as she makes the child take the next object, and the child replies: “I have a knife.” After a few periods of this concrete language work, the teacher writes on the board the answers to these questions, and tells the children that she has written what they said. Every child knows, therefore, that the first sentence reads, “This is a pen,” and the second, “I have a knife.” The teacher now secures smooth and easy reading of these two sentences. She points to the one and then to the other, and requires the children to give evidence of the idea in each by action rather than by reading. The nouns and the pronouns are now changed; the verbs give way to others equally appropriate, until the children can read a number of sentences and recognize a long list of useful words. In this way the child acquires a stock of sight words.

3. Estimate of the Sentence Method.—A cursory examination of this outline of the method reveals its weaknesses. The daily lessons lack system and gradation; the sentences are insipid and absolutely unrelated to the child’s life. What urgency is there to read, “This is a pen”? The method boasts of its emphasis on the objective, but the practical teacher realizes that it is a stupid and unnecessary use of a concrete method. Children who do not know such words as pen, knife, I, you, etc., should be taught oral English, not reading. Farnham himself tells us that in this method “the teacher’s faith and patience may be severely tried.” The sentence method teaches us that correct reading is reading for thought, but in its practical application it becomes as uninspirational as the Ward Method, but without the compensating skilful and careful gradation. In the final analysis, the method is merely an introductory device, for it must soon fall back on phonic drills in its endeavor to teach independent word recognition.

4. Modified Sentence Methods.—Huey and McMurry and other writers have urged modifications of the unrelated sentence method. They advise the selection of some central theme for the day’s reading text. If the children have enjoyed unusual exercises in their morning assembly this circumstance is made the theme for oral composition and self-expression. At the end of the period the whole discussion is summarized in five or six short related sentences. These are put on the blackboard, and the class has a living and interesting reading text. The suggestion is valuable, for the most enthusiastic reading lessons are often not in the book, but find their authorship in the class or the teacher. But here, too, we have only a suggestion worthy of occasional application, and not a general method, for there is no guarantee of either systematized and progressive work, or of an ability to recognize new words independently.

III. The McCloskey Method: The Story Method.[9]—1. The Plea for the Story.—A system of reading whose systematic and graded organization and whose serious application of all sound principles of reading give it the dignity of a true method, was elaborated by Miss Margaret McCloskey. The method begins with an eloquent plea for literary appreciation. It studies the child at the age when school life begins, and finds him at a stage in his language development that is characterized by an almost insatiable craving for the story, by an imagination that glows in rich imagery and lives in fantastic environs of its own making. The child approaches the reading book, the source of new stories, with all the anticipation that he would feel for a gift. How bitter must be the disappointment when the child finds in his primer, “Oh, see the cat, the black cat,” or “Hop and skip,” “Skip and hop,” “Run and jump.” If the teacher seeks to refine the emotions of the child and cultivate its imagination, then she must begin the reading lessons with a story that has literary worth.

2. The Story as the Initial Step in the Reading Method.—The McCloskey Method begins its series of reading lessons with a cumulative tale that delights the child with its round of rhythmic repetitions. The teacher prepares the children for the story of the kid that “my father bought for two pieces of money,” and for the chain of tragedies in which the cat ate the kid but was in turn bitten by the dog which was hit by the stick which was burned by the fire that was put out by the water which was drunk by the ox which paid the final penalty when the butcher slew him. The informal narrative is followed later in the day by the formal story with its rhythmic repetitions of,

A kid, a kid, my father bought

For two pieces of money.

                    A kid, a kid.

Then came the cat and ate the kid

That my father bought

For two pieces of money, etc.

                    A kid, a kid.

These lines are repeated frequently. By competitive devices, dramatizations and recitations, the interest is kept up in the story until it is known by heart.

The teacher now suggests the pleasure of reading such a story by oneself, and thus offers motive for the first reading lesson. The first sentence is put on the blackboard and the children who know it are invited to read what was written. After easy and smooth rendition is secured, the pupils learn to recognize father by its place in the context, then by comparing the word father, written in the corner of the board, with the full sentence, and finally when it is shown on a perception card by itself. The other words are taught in the same way until the children can read any sentence containing these words, e. g., “For two pieces of money my father bought a kid”; “The cat ate the kid,” etc. The round of repetitions gives plenty of drill, yet the children are not kept too long on one sentence. After the first story is thus mastered, word by word, two other cumulative tales are taught in the same way before the end of the first half year. The children are now the proud possessors of an enviable reading vocabulary. If the teacher will list all the words in these three stories and then do the same to any story found in a synthetic method third reader, she will find that the children know a stock of sight words that enable them to read the story she selected.

3. The Transition to the Book.—The McCloskey Method seeks only one form of association in reading, viz., symbol and thought. It is therefore opposed to making the transition from script to print by comparing the two as is done in the Ward Method. It presents the story of “The Kid” in print, and teaches the child to read this new form in the same way as he learned the script. Most authorities sanction both forms of transition, i. e., through association of symbol and idea, and through association of script and print, just as they approve beginning with either print or script, since each has its advantages. The only restriction that must be made is the simultaneous presentation of print and script, for the child is bewildered by the multiplicity of symbols.

4. Phonics.—We have seen, thus far, how this method makes reading a process of thinking and emphasizes content rather than form. The author of the method realizes the need of phonic work that gives the ability to recognize new words, and results in better articulation and sharper auditory perceptions. With this end in view, the sight words that are known are analyzed and the phonograms carefully taught. Man gives m and an; rat gives r and at. The child is now required to form his own blends of these phonograms to produce the words ran and mat. The work in phonics is well graded and thoroughly organized for the teacher. The method is therefore well balanced, for it realizes the coördinate position that must be accorded to the content and the mechanical aim in reading.

5. Language Lessons.—A final endeavor of the McCloskey Method seeks to establish an intimate correlation between reading and oral and written language work. After the third story is well known an interesting topic is selected from the reading matter, or the child’s experience, and is used for oral composition. The topic is then summarized in a few sentences, which contain the words that the children learned in the course of the reading. By suggesting the desirability of being able to write the subject of the day’s lesson to a friend, the teacher motivates the first lesson in written composition. The introductory sentence is written on the board in large, clear characters, and the modus operandi is explained. After giving a vivid visual impression, the sentence is erased and volunteers are called upon to write the sentence. In case no child is ready, the same sentence is again written on the board, explained and erased until some children can reproduce it from memory. A pupil who errs in any letter or word must erase his effort and try over again until the sentence is written as a whole, correct in every respect. At the end of the first period, only two or three successful efforts may be found. At the end of the third lesson, about twenty children can write the introductory sentence. The work continues in the same imitative manner, seeking direct association between symbol and idea until the children can write the whole composition. A foreign-born graduate of the 1A class is the proud author of the following composition:

The Little Hen

One day a little red hen found corn. She asked the cat to help her plant the corn. Then she asked the rat, the dog and the pig. All of them would not help her so she did it herself. She asked them to help her water the corn but they would not. When the meal was baked into bread they all wanted to eat it. But the little red hen said, “No! you cannot help me eat it; I can eat it myself.”

Although the child knows no letters by name, and cannot justify the various punctuation signs, capitals, indentations, etc., he is learning to use symbols as means of expressing his thought. But the teacher must not forget the caution that was urged in the study of the Ward Method, for such premature efforts at writing may lead to the development of most objectionable habits in penmanship.[10]

6. Estimate of the McCloskey Method.—To answer the skeptic who doubts the efficacy of such a method, we must urge pragmatic proof. This method is doing excellent work in foreign sections of Newark, its pedagogical birthplace, and in New York. Teachers who conceive the ultimate aim of reading to be literary appreciation must approve this system. But the formalists, on the other hand, can pick no quarrel with such a method, for its emphasis on phonic analysis and synthesis guarantees as great a mastery of the symbols of reading as any purely mechanical method like the Ward. The strength of the McCloskey Method lies in its proportionate emphasis of the two basic aims of reading and its skilful application of modern reading standards. From a narrower aspect, this method is not free from faults. Teachers complain that they are handicapped because the method is not developed beyond the work for the initial year. The absence of a printed manual entails unnecessary work by teachers. The content is often ill adapted to the foreign-born city child, whose words are few and whose comprehension lies wholly within urban topics. The McCloskey Primer uses quench, shaven and shorn, forlorn, tattered and torn—expressions beyond the pale of such children’s vocabularies. The stories tell almost exclusively of country themes that are not within the scope of these children’s experience. Not one child in fifty in a school in a foreign section of New York knew any but the slang meaning of “A kid.” These mechanical limitations in the organization of the method have left gaps that other reading systems have very successfully bridged. It is for this reason that the “Progressive Road to Reading” bids fair to supplant the Newark system in New York City schools.


Carpenter, Baker and Scott. Teaching of English, 98-121.

Goldwasser, I. E. Method and Methods in the Teaching of English, chap. II. D. C. Heath & Co.

Hall, G. Stanley. How to Teach Reading. D. C. Heath & Co.

Huey, E. B. Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, chaps. X, XI, XII.

Laing, Mary E. Reading, a Manual for Teachers, chaps. VIII, IX.

McMurry, Charles A. Special Method in Reading for the Grades. The Macmillan Co.

Taylor, J. S. Principles and Methods of Teaching Reading, chap. V, 109-127.

Teachers’ College Record. January and September, 1906.

[6] In treating these methods of teaching reading to beginners the author merely suggests the underlying principle, the general organization and an estimate of each. Teachers and supervisors who desire a more detailed knowledge of any of these methods must secure the “Teachers’ Manual” by the author of the respective method and a full complement of the primers and the readers.

[7] Edward G. Ward. The Rational Method in Reading, Silver, Burdett & Co.

[8] Farnham. “The Sentence Method of Teaching Reading,” C. W. Bardeen, Syracuse, N. Y.

[9] Margaret McCloskey. “McCloskey Primer,” Ginn & Co.

[10] See page 47.



Summary.—The last chapter traced the evolution of modern methods of teaching primary children to read. The path is long and circuitous, with many pitfalls and discouraging features to both children and teacher. The synthetic methods made reading a purely mechanical process, and sought to give the child a perfect mastery of symbols. To accomplish this end, they began reading with a study of the alphabet, or the sounds of the alphabet. Syllables, phonograms, single letters,—all were fused into words as soon as possible. Early reading began, not with real content and thought appeal which give to language a throb of life, but with letters and phonograms, the static, stupid phase of speech. The child’s mind was occupied with the problems of first recognizing the phonograms and then synthesizing them into real words. When these two processes became habit, real reading, reading for thought, was introduced. But the exclusive attention to word forms and elements of words, the unrelenting drills on synthesizing the mechanics of written language made reading so thoroughly formal that true reading, reading for thought, was almost completely undermined.

These methods soon caused a reaction when applied by intelligent teachers. The habits in reading that the children were developing were so positively detrimental that methods diametrically opposed to these synthetic systems were evolved. Reading was now made an analytical process; it began with words, or larger language units, and only when these were mastered, were the study of word formation and the independent recognition of new words taught by analyzing the sight words already known. But mastery of sight words, reading of isolated words, soon became as monotonous and inane as the reading of syllables and phonograms. The desire for thoughtful, expressive reading from the very beginning brought a sentence method and finally a story method. Only when the child can read the sentences naturally and feelingly is he taught the component words. But, in reading, the sentence is never subordinated to the words in it. The child is never allowed to read a sentence unless he has read it silently, has asked about any word that puzzles him. There must be no hesitation, no loss of thought. The words read at sight in sentences are then taken up, analyzed into their component sounds and the mechanics of reading taught in special drills.

Modern Methods Tabulated.—In the evolution of primary methods that was traced in the last chapter, we considered the alphabetic, the phonic, the phonetic, the word, the sentence, and the story methods; all these passed in review, each making its contribution toward the correct method of teaching, each typifying some tendency, each embodying a definite principle. These methods are the units; they reflect the types. The list of present-day reading methods is long and varied, but each reading system is either a combination of two or more of the basic methods studied in the preceding chapter, or a modification and elaboration of some one of them. The following table attempts to classify the more popular of the modern methods of teaching children to read. The system of grouping is the same as that offered in the table on page 36, and therefore needs no explanation. A careful analysis by the student of the table on page 61 is now advisable.

Modern Methods of Primary Reading
Synthetic MethodsAnalytical Methods
WordSentence UnitStory Unit
GordonPollardFarnhamMcCloskey or
New Educ.      ≺——*Ward
Natural Method
or Culture
≺——Horace Mann
≺——Finger Play——≻

* A combination word and phonetic method.

A cross between a word and a sentence method.

May be classified as either sentence or story method because the sentences or rhymes are more or less related in thought.

Emma K. Gordon Method.[12]—From the table it can be seen that no system of reading brought out by enthusiastic teachers can claim the honor of absolute originality. The Emma K. Gordon “Comprehensive Method” and Pollard’s “Synthetic Method of Reading and Spelling” have little in them that was not noted in the analysis of a purely synthetic phonic or phonetic method. The former begins its system with the belief that “thorough work in phonics lies at the base of all rational teaching of reading,” and shows the teacher how to carry out a severely phonic and synthetic method. It boasts of its contempt for diacritical marks, of its emphasis on family words, like “talk,” “chalk,” “walk,” “balk,” of its phonic games which are only revivals of those played by Ickelsamer’s children in the days of 1534. It fails to see that it cannot be a “comprehensive method” if it emphasizes form to the exclusion of thought.

Pollard’s Synthetic Method.[13]—In Pollard’s “Synthetic Method of Reading and Spelling,” one finds a method that is purely phonetic, “almost arrogantly so.” The mechanical mastery of words; the constant use of diacritical marks; the use of sound games and phonic pictures (f is the symbol of cats at war, sh of a child being put to sleep); the personification of the letters (small letters are boys, while capitals are men, etc.); all these are typical of the archaic devices and organization to which this method has constant recourse.

Estimate of Gordon and Pollard Methods.—Both these methods can teach children to read. But any method, or even no method, can; hence ultimate ability to read words and sentences is no criterion. “How agreeably, how thoughtfully, how naturally, how quickly can they do so?” are the questions that must be answered. Despite the fact that these methods are (1) systematic, (2) well graded, (3) capable of teaching children how to attack new words, (4) good for ear training and articulation drills, we reject them because they are artificial, with a reading matter that is flat, stupid and disjointed, and because, in their emphasis on reading as a synthetic process, phonic reading before word or sentence reading, they are destructive of the right habits of reading.

The New Education Method.—This system of reading is an excellent example of a modern synthetic method. Its sponsors claim for it the dubious honor of being the “best of the old,” and give assurance that it “will teach the child to read.” But “to read” is made to mean by them “ability at instant recognition of symbols.” The method begins with a drill in consonants, for they are fixed in sound. When the child knows the phonic function of all consonants he is taught a list of sight words for a mastery of vowels and their changing function in varied combinations. The method then emphasizes the art of blending; it shows the child how ight from fight and s from sit give sight. This mastery of technique is followed by a reading of sentences for expression. There is nothing “new” nor “educational” in the method. It is a well systematized and graded synthetic organization that militates against the acquisition of necessary habits in thoughtful reading.

The Maud Summers Method.[14]—This method is more pretentious and more modern. It endeavors to attain a literary level, to teach language, to make reading a pleasurable process, but not at the expense of the mastery of symbols. Its intentions are meritorious, but its practical organization often fails to reach this high level.

Underlying Principle of the Summers Method.—The method is based on three educational principles, which it persistently tries to carry out: (1) Images are necessary. The child must have clear images of his natural environment, of the elements and conditions mentioned in the reading matter, otherwise the verbal symbols fail to symbolize anything rational. (2) The mind recognizes the whole of things before its parts. The order of teaching must therefore be sentences before words, and words before phonograms. (3) The self-activity of the child must always be aroused. It is the active coöperation of the child, the continued expression of his self-activity which will determine not only the thought he acquires, but also the mastery of symbols that will be developed. These principles determine the organization of the method.

The Organisation of the Summers Method.—The method has two important elements: the thought and symbols in reading.

The thought is the most vital factor in reading, for the ability to associate symbol and idea is determined by the value and the interest which the idea has for the child. Thought is emphasized through: (1) Action sentences. Dramatization is the important contribution of this method. Since the child is an intensely motor animal, he enjoys acting out his ideas. The words and sentences that begin this method are such as abound in children’s games. (2) Nursery rhymes form a second important part of the content of primer and blackboard reading. Children have a rhythmic sense that is unmistakable in their games, their songs, etc. Poetry for the child must not only be rhythmic, but it must breathe mystery to stir his imagination. Nursery and nonsense rhymes fulfill both of these conditions. They are learned and recited because they train in good articulation, cultivate a cadence in language, and afford pleasurable reading matter. (3) To keep thought in reading uppermost, this method makes observational lessons part of the method. What the children see and do in their nature-study lessons and in the manual training periods is made the topic for discussion. This is summarized and becomes the subject-matter of the reading lesson from the blackboard. The books are replete with illustrations of artistic merit, in the hope of making thought and action clear. (4) The method, in its literary endeavor, assigns regular “Readings by the Teacher to the Class” of those stories that form the literary heritage of the race. The children listen to these, repeat them, dramatize them, and read them, in summarized forms, from the blackboard.

The second element of the method deals with the “symbols in reading.” Although the Summers method attempts to attain a literary level, it does not neglect the mastery of phonograms, which it regards as coördinate with thought acquisition. The method therefore emphasizes voice and ear training, drills in phonic analysis of sight words, practice in synthesizing known phonograms, careful gradation and progressive repetitions in word building—in short, the varied forms of exercises designed to develop mastery in the mechanics of reading.

Estimate of Summers Method.—Despite all its emphasis on thought, this system starts by teaching children a list of sight words, like “run,” “play,” “jump,” “hop,” words that can be dramatized and used for word-building later on. The early reading lacks the natural and interesting content found in later lessons, and busies itself with such repetitions as “Run and jump,” “Sing and jump,” “Run and sing,” or “Jack, run and sing,” “I run and sing,” etc. Its dramatization often saves it from becoming nothing more than a weary word method.

The Aldine System.[15]Basic Principle.—This method, organized by Spalding and Bryce, is another system based on the simple principle that reading is a process of thinking which must leave the child richer in thought and knowledge. In actual organization it wavers between a sentence and a story method.

Organisation of the Aldine Method.—This method may be divided into five principal elements: (1) the story introducing the rhyme, (2) the reading of the rhyme, (3) the study of the picture, (4) dramatization, (5) phonic analysis and blend.

1. The story introducing the rhyme: Progress in the Aldine Method is measured by the complete mastery of a set of rhymes used for reading, language lessons, dramatizations, phonics and word-building. The rhyme is introduced through a story which the teacher tells the children; the story gives an interesting background to the rhyme, suggests it a number of times, but the tale is not memorized as in the McCloskey Method. The first rhyme is introduced by the following story, told by the teacher:

The Spring Story

Once upon a time a little boy and his sister asked their mother if they might have some money and go to the store and buy some candy.

“No, dears,” answered Mother, “I think you have had all the candy that is good for you today. Run outdoors and play.”

Out walked the two children and sat down on the porch.

“I don’t want to play,” growled the boy.

“I think we might just have a little candy,” whined the girl. So they sat on the porch and pouted.

The little birds flew from tree to tree, building their nests and singing. They were so happy because Spring had come.

The squirrels frisked and chattered on the lawn. They, too, were glad the winter was over.

Even the yellow daffodils in the garden looked up and smiled at the warm sun.

Everyone seemed happy but our pouting boy and girl.

Along the street came a crowd of boys and girls, running, laughing and shouting. They were just as happy as the birds and squirrels.

When they saw the cross little boy and girl, they shouted: “Stop pouting. Don’t you know Spring is here? Now is the time to play and be glad.”

Then a big girl, who was leading, called:

“Come away,

Come and play.”

All the children took up the cry, and shouted:

“Come away,

Come and play.”

They were having such a good time that our boy and girl could feel cross no longer. Smiles chased the frowns from their faces. They jumped up and ran off with the other children, laughing and singing:

“Come away,

Come and play.”

2. The reading of the rhyme: The rhyme is now memorized, read in script from the board, from printed charts and from cards placed in the hands of the children. “Come away, Come and play,” “Run with me, To the tree,” etc., are examples. The reading must be smooth, easy, rapid and thoughtful.

3. The study of the picture: To make the thought stand out more vividly each lesson has its picture. These children are allowed to study in an attempt to infer the story. The pictures are artistic and are thus a source of keen pleasure. Detailed questions, asked by the teacher, elicit a series of answers which give thought background to the rhyme and serve as exercises in oral composition.

4. Dramatization: To make the reading more natural, and prevent stilted classroom rendition, every stanza is dramatized as it is read. In the case of the first rhyme, “Come away, Come and play,” one pupil is designated as a leader. This child skips through the aisles, choosing his companions by touching each and calling, “Come away, Come and play.”

5. Phonic analysis and blend.—The sight words thus learned through the rhymes are now analyzed, and thus become a valuable basis for phonetic drills. The consonants are taught separately by consonant cards, in association with a sight word; one side of the card is and the reverse side is If the child cannot sound R, he is shown the side that has the word “run” on it. The vowels, on the other hand, are not taught alone, since they vary and take their sound from the group in which they are found. From the stock of initial sight words the children build a list four or five times as long as the original one; thus, the ome of come enables them to get some and likewise run gives gun, fun, sun, etc. They also learn to analyze new words phonetically. The method is exceedingly well organized, moves along rapidly, and has a complete equipment of reading charts, phonic charts, etc., which are not only designed for class reading, but also for profitable individual seat work.

Estimate of the Aldine Method.—An analysis of the organization of this Aldine system shows that it is a skillful attempt to embody all those principles which seek to make reading synonymous with thought getting. It begins at the point where reading touches the child—the story. The cadence of the basic rhymes which appeals to the child’s innate sense of rhythm is seized on as a means of teaching children a useful stock of sight words in rational and pleasing association. But independent word recognition is steadily kept in view; a carefully planned series of phonic exercises achieves this end. When followed by an enthusiastic teacher the results are gratifying indeed. The manual is a good treatise on reading, and the primers are well organized and illustrated. The great danger of the system is that, in the hands of a dispirited teacher, it degenerates into a stupid sentence method. In the final analysis the Aldine Method is a sentence method; only the skilful handling of the introductory stories by the teacher saves it from the weaknesses inherent in a pure sentence method.

The Finger-play Method.[16]Its Underlying Principle.—Another system, closely allied to the Aldine Method, is the Davis-Julien Finger Play Method. It, too, begins with the hypothesis that, to read for thought, one must begin with thought. The foundation of the reading matter is a series of rhymes, based on familiar nature facts, and used in connection with finger plays. But, unlike the McCloskey Method, the purpose of this system “is not to gain memorized reading, but to acquire independence through power in phonics.” The reading text is, therefore, only a natural means of introducing phonics.

Organisation of the Finger Play Method.—The Finger Play Method has four important components: (1) the thought basis, (2) sight reading, (3) phonics, (4) extensive correlation.

1. The thought basis: Unlike the Ward Method, no list of unrelated sight words is used to introduce the child to sight reading. The charming story of the life and work of the bee forms the initial lesson in reading. The beehive is brought into the room, the bees themselves are the all-absorbing topic of the day, and their very song is sung. Any sentence about bees that the children invent to express their interest in the lesson is written on the board by the teacher, and is read by them after her. At the end of the first lesson, the class can read bee and beehive, distinguishing them by their varying lengths. The succeeding lessons begin with the song of the bees, or the game of the children in the beehive, as they recite the first rhyme, “Here is the beehive. Where are the bees? Hidden away where nobody sees.” The children, then closing their fingers into a fist, continue: “Soon they come creeping out of the hive, one, two, three, four, five”; at each count a finger is opened, until the five bees fly away. A dramatization, in which all the children save five form a beehive and allow the five bees to fly away as they recite the complete rhyme, is one of many pleasant devices of the method.

2. Sight reading: The sight reading follows, in the main, the procedure noted in other systems. The rhyme is mastered first, then phrases, words, sounds, and their reconstruction into words, form the order of succession.

3. Phonics: The Finger Play Method, unlike other methods, begins its phonic work at once. The first sight word, bee, is used as a basis for phonic analysis into b and ee, and for their phonic synthesis into bee. The work in phonics is well graded in progressive repetitions and is designed, by the end of the term, to give the child a knowledge of most of the useful phonograms, and to develop a gratifying ability in phonic analyses and blends.

4. Extensive correlation: Another strong element in the organization of this method is its extensive correlation. Music is made a helpful basis in phonic exercises; a living interest in nature is developed through its nature-study context; building the beehive, folding papers into “chicadees,” etc., numerous drawings, are forms of manual training that afford excellent seat work; the games and the dramatizations are pleasant forms of physical exercise for the children; the early emphasis on writing is another link in the long chain of correlations.

Estimate of Finger Play Method.—Stripped of all its devices, this method is really an analytic-phonic reading system. The first concern of the authors seems to be to evolve a series of well-selected and graded phonograms; their second concern is to fit an agreeable subject-matter to these phonic elements. Through songs, games, dramatizations, manual work, and nature appeals, the content is skillfully made to cover the early phonic structure. Some teachers complain that in the latter part of the primer the round of repetitions grows monotonous. But these graded repetitions insure early independent reading, so that the children are soon ready for supplementary texts and varied reading matter. The later readers are excellent in content, organization and artistic design. The illustrations are superb.

The Horace Mann System.[17]Basic Principle.—The latest method of reading which is attracting attention is the Horace Mann System. We must consider it carefully, in order to place it properly in the list of methods for primary reading. Its underlying principle is, “Let thought lead. . . . Reading, after all, is an affair of thought, imagination, emotion, and expression.” Not only are the initial sentences related in thought, but the successive lessons are so interrelated in theme and vocabulary that they are designed to promote “constructive thinking.”

Organization of the Horace Mann System.—From the very beginning the teacher is cautioned to see that all reading is properly motivated for the children, i. e., that they feel a personal hunger to read; that they know the words reasonably well; that the theme is part of their experiences and cravings; that the preparation reveals only that which will stir curiosity, but conceals enough to lead them to “read to learn,” rather than to “learn to read.”

The reading text is introduced through various media, each of which guarantees an interesting thought basis. In one situation, the medium may be a Labeling Process. A picture or an object with its descriptive words is hung before the class. In the ensuing language lesson the teacher leads the class to associate the symbols with their objects. In the next lesson the symbols recall their respective objects. Story-telling, in which the teacher puts recurring sentences or phrases on the board, is another device for introducing sight reading. The natural repetition of these expressions affords a drill which enables children to recognize, first, the sentence or phrase, and then the component words. Reading by Position is also used. A known rhyme is read and the words are learned by their position in the memorized context. Silent Reading is still another form of sight reading. A given sentence is put on the board. If it is a command, the teacher executes it and the children infer what the written sentence says. If it is a question, the teacher answers it, and the children construct the interrogation. Context Reading, in which the children read a sentence of known words and supply an omitted word, is a favorite means of teaching new sight words. Games and songs, in which rhymes or stanzas are learned, afford excellent means of memorizing texts, which are read, as in the other systems, at sight.

In every lesson there is, therefore, a thought basis for sight reading, and every means has been taken to make the reading expressive and the phrasing correct before phonic analysis receives attention. This method then posits the principle that to neglect phonics is to fail to develop independent reading; to focalize phonics is to develop ability to recognize words but not to read. Having made reading an “affair of thought,” it now concerns itself with organizing, grading, and vitalizing phonic elements. All phonograms find their origin in the reading text, and receive ample drills through wise repetitions in succeeding reading matter. Drills in ear training, enunciation, phonic analysis, and synthesis are integral parts of each of the progressive series of lessons. However, this method does not place emphasis upon learning to recognize the greatest possible number of sight words, but rather on the power to work out new words independently.

Estimate of Horace Mann System.—This bold outline of the organization of this reading method shows that it contains no new theory nor a new suggestion to modern methodology. All that it attempts to do has been done by reading systems in use today. But its eclectic character, its wise application of all sound principles and devices for teaching reading, its consistent call on the child’s self-activity, its graded and applied work in phonics, and its excellent manual, which is a treatise on reading, will undoubtedly lead to its adoption, and enable it to achieve successful results.

The Progressive Road to Reading.[18]Underlying Principle.—A system of reading unanimously praised by those who use it is the “Progressive Road to Reading.” Like the “Natural Method” (Culture Primers),[19] it is an extended and systematic application of the principles and organization as worked out in the story method of Miss Margaret McCloskey.

Organisation of the “Progressive Road to Reading.”—1. The teaching of the story: The teaching of the basic story comes first. The cumulative story of the “Hen and the Bag of Flour” is told by the teacher, then made the subject of conversation lessons, and finally reproduced by the children, with the aid of appropriate dramatizations. The blackboard work is now introduced. The first sentence, printed on the board or on a chart, is read, as a sentence, then verbal relations are recognized. The children learn independent word recognition (1) by the position of the word in a known sentence, (2) by comparison with the same word in the known sentence, and (3) by reading new sentences from old words. To illustrate: The known sentence is, “A hen had a bag of flour.” The children learn the word “hen” by its position in the sentence; hen is the second word. At a later stage in the drill the teacher has the sentence on one board and the word hen on another. The children look at the isolated word hen, then at the sentence, and see that the lone word hen looks like the second word in the sentence. When mastery of all the words in the sentence is thus attained, new sentences are constructed by the teacher and the children are called upon to read these. “She tried to carry it home herself” becomes “She herself tried to carry it home”; this in turn is changed to “The hen tried to carry the bag of flour home herself.” So, too, the sentence, “But the hen said ‘no’,” becomes successively, “‘No,’ said the hen,” “The hen herself said, ‘No’,” “Said the hen, ‘No’,” “The hen said, ‘No’.” Rote work is thus guarded against very successfully. Each child whispers the sentence to the teacher, and is placed in one of three sections, depending upon his ability.

2. Phonics: The second part of the method deals with the problem of phonics. The procedure is the same as in the McCloskey Method. The sight words afford the basis for phonic exercises. These words are analyzed; the component phonograms are studied and then blended. Thus, hen gives “en”; the “p,” the “t,” the “d,” the “m” are brought from other words, and the child learns to read pen, ten, den, men. In this way the ear is trained, the ability to read new words is given, and the children are prepared for spelling.

3. The written language: The third part of the method, like the McCloskey Method, deals with “written language.” Each grade teaches the writing of words and of sentences. A word like “it” is put on the board, explained, written again and again, erased, and then the children imitate it. Then on, no, me, so, will, etc., are added. New words are built on these; “will” gives sill, till, bill, kill, etc. When enough words are mastered, they are joined into short sentences. These are put on the board, the children study them, and, after they are erased, they imitate them. If the children fail, the sentence is again put on the board, again visualized, and again erased. Pupils once more attempt a complete reproduction. The results of this written work were noted and discussed in a previous connection.[20]

Estimate of the “Progressive Road” Method.—The method is sound theoretically, thoroughly modern in spirit, and well graded in organization. Although in the final analysis it is very similar to the Newark or McCloskey method, it is more enthusiastically received by teachers because it has a better selection of stories, is more systematic, continues its plan for longer than the first year, and offers a carefully elaborated manual, which readily guides the teacher inexperienced in teaching primary reading.

How to Judge Any System of Reading.—In this hasty survey of the various systems of primary reading no attempt was made to study each in detail. The teacher who is teaching by any one of these methods will find every step well developed, illustrated, graded, and explained in its respective manual. These manuals are often excellent treatises on the subject of primary reading. The aim of this and the preceding chapter was merely to give the point of view, the classification, and the final justification of each method. No one method is recommended, for the choice of a system of reading must be made by the teachers in conference with their principal. It is necessary, therefore, to suggest an outline of study that teachers should follow who are sincerely searching for a reading system that will most efficiently meet their problem and the children’s needs. The following is suggested:

In studying a method of primary reading, we ask:

1.What is its basic theory, or underlying principle?
2.How should it be classified?
3.What is the method?
a.What is its procedure in reading for thought? In developing independent reading through power in phonics? Are these two aims rationally balanced?
b.What device does it use, not found in other systems?
c.What equipment does it necessitate—charts, cards, pictures, etc.?
d.Does it provide a manual for the teacher?
4.Primers and Readers?
a.Content Aspect: Has content any relation to child’s life?
b.Formal Aspect: Are they graded, progressive, within the comprehension of the children? Is phonics well treated and duly emphasized?
c.Pedagogical Aspect: Well illustrated? Designed to arouse an interest in good reading?
d.Hygienic Aspect: Do they meet hygienic requirements?
e.Later Readers and Supplementary Readers: Are they literary in aim and content? Progressive and graded? Do they inspire love for reading?
5.Is the method as elaborated consistent with its theory? Does it accomplish its object?
6.How does it compare with others?
a.In speedy results in mechanics of reading?
b.In arousing activity of children and their love for reading?
c.In arousing interest in teachers, etc.?
d.In developing independent reading through power of phonics?
e.In developing habits of thought acquisition in reading?
a.Points in its favor?
b.Its limitations?
c.Is the method in harmony with the best theories of the psychology, pedagogy, and hygiene of reading?

Conclusion.—The skeptic asks, “Why all these pedagogical inventions; did not the old alphabetic method teach humanity how to read?” The alphabetic method did teach us how to read, but it cheated the child of the joy of the story for many years, and, in the end, often made him a lip reader, or a ponderous word reader. It is for these reasons that we seek a method which makes reading a thought process, and makes the initial lesson a delight to the story-loving child.[21]


Bayles, Martha B. McCloskey Method of Teaching Reading. School Work, vi, No. 3.

Griffin, Susie A. Ward Method of Teaching Reading. School Work, vii, No. 1.

Hagar, Caroline. The Aldine Method of Teaching Reading. School Work, vii, No. 3.

Huey, E. B. Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, chaps. XIV, XVII, XVIII.

Hughes, James L. Teaching to Read. A. S. Barnes & Co.

Karr, Grant. Summers Method of Teaching Reading. School Work, viii, No. 2.

Kenyon-Warner, E. E. Natural Method in Reading. School Work, vii, No. 4.

Laing, Mary E. Reading, a Manual for Teachers, chap. IX.

McMurry, Charles A. Special Method in Reading for the Grades. The Macmillan Co.

Mount, Christiana. New Education Method of Reading. School Work, viii, No. 1.

[11] In treating these methods of teaching reading to beginners the author merely suggests the underlying principle, the general organization and an estimate of each. Teachers and supervisors who desire a more detailed knowledge of any of these methods must secure the “Teachers’ Manual” by the author of the respective method and a full complement of the primers and the readers.

[12] Emma K. Gordon. Comprehensive Method of Teaching Reading, D. C. Heath & Co., 1902.

[13] Rebecca S. Pollard. Pollard’s Synthetic Method of Reading and Spelling, American Book Co., 1889.

[14] Maud Summers. The Summers Method, Frank D. Beattys Co., N. Y., 1908.

[15] Spalding and Bryce. The Aldine Readers, Newson & Co., N. Y., 1907.

[16] Davis and Julien. Finger Play Readers, D. C Heath & Co., 1909.

[17] Hervey and Hix. The Horace Mann Readers, Longmans, Green, & Co., 1912.

[18] Shimer, Ettinger and Burchill: “The Progressive Road to Reading,” Silver, Burdett & Co.

[19] Mrs. Ellen Kenyon-Warner. The Culture Primers (Natural Method), C. E. Merrill Co.

[20] See page 55.

[21] In the Appendix (pages 206-236) will be found criticisms of the following systems of method readers: the Edson-Laing Readers; the Merrill Readers; the Elson-Runkel Method; the Beacon Readers; the Riverside Readers; the See and Say Series; the Story Hour Readers; the Natural Method Readers.




Development of the Primer.—A system of reading, planned from the point of view of the child, embodying all the tendencies indicated by sound psychology, often fails because of the limitations of its reading matter. Primers have too often been written to meet the needs of the method, to supply words for the phonic exercises, to sound an ethical platitude, or to state a patriotic sentiment. They are seldom written from a sympathetic study of the life, the interests and the experiences of the children whom they are to inspire. It is interesting to trace the growth of primers from the early New England forms, in which the governing object was to give the child religious and moral instruction or elaborations of the copybook maxims, to the best of our day, which seek to present reading matter that is simple in thought and form, intimate in its relation to child life and child cravings, and valuable from the point of view of literature itself.

Characteristics of a Good Primer.—A model primer meets certain primary demands in content and in mechanical organization. Let us turn to each.

1. Content of the Primer.—The primary requisite of the content of a primer or an early reader is that it should be good literature. Children should be given reading matter that is worth while, for its own sake. An examination of the flat, insipid, uninspiring subject-matter of the average primer shows at once how many reading systems are hopeless from the very beginning. Although the content must be within the child’s sphere of comprehension and interests, it should be decidedly above his level of style, expression, and language possessions.

A second characteristic of proper reading content is that it should be varied. When we scan the wide field of possibilities we readily realize how easily this second requisite can be incorporated. In brief, what can be included in this early reading matter? We may include the following:

a. The nursery rhymes that have stood the test of time make delightful content; they are loved by the children, they develop a language cadence and a sense of rhythm; they are adaptable for play and dramatization.

b. Personal stories of class and school life and experience should come next as part of the reading matter. Any event in the day’s experience about which the children are enthusiastic should become the basis of that day’s reading matter. After discussion by the children, the teacher puts the reading lesson on the board, and frames it in terms of words, expressions and phonetic elements that are known. The most delightful reading lessons are not printed in books. They are outgrowths of class life and find their authorship in the teacher.

c. Fairy tales offer the next contribution to content. If there were no other justification for their introduction it would suffice to say that children love them. They are most germane to the child’s interests. They are a source of infinite joy, because they color with poetic charm the common human virtues; “they present truth through the guise of images.” The stories of “The Ugly Duckling,” or of “Cinderella,” are illustrations of the ingenious teaching and the poetic conception of everyday faults and virtues. These stories feed a glowing imagination and answer the cultural needs of later life, for they recur in music, in painting, in sculpture, and in adult literature.

d. Animal and nature stories receive a hearty response from the children. The child is interested in living nature next to real humanity. These stories must be literature first and science second. The animal or the plant must be humanized, it must be imbued with the same yearnings, the same loves and hates and temptations as the child himself feels, if it is to become part of an agreeable reading content.

e. Folk tales and fables come next in the list of varied elements in the reading content. They contain in simple form a liberal stock of the world’s wisdom, given not in the form of moral talks, but through real actors, usually through an animal as the agent. The ethical lessons are usually effective, because the moral situations picture concretely and with a tinge of humor, the inevitable results of greed, selfishness, kindness, cruelty, or truthfulness. The moral conclusions are of a worldly sort, exceedingly practical and far from the lofty and impossible levels of the average ethics lessons. This accounts for the general disrepute into which the fable has fallen. Dr. Adler thinks they are of dubious merit and fraught with danger, for they inspire in the child respect for cunning and craftiness. But every situation that is problematical in its nature is liable to misinterpretation by the immature child unless the teacher, by skilful questions or suggestions, undermines the wrong attitude.

f. Cumulative tales, with the rhythmic round of repetitions of the type of “A Kid,” “The House That Jack Built,” have a legitimate place in the primer. The constant repetitions afford a means of ready and natural retention with minimum effort, for the repetitions are not indulged in for the sake of reiteration, but are part of the story itself; their cadence and rhythmic appeal are added factors in producing more permanent impressions. The humorous and the human elements in these stories guarantee an enthusiastic reception by the children.

g. The humorous story is another element in early reading content that is conspicuous by its absence. The humor of these stories is a tonic to the nerves, for it has a relaxing property. “The delicious shock of surprise at every ‘funny spot’ is a kind of electric treatment to the nerves.” The list for reading cannot be complete unless we include the dramatic stories that make the nerves tense and suspend the breath, the Bible stories, with their delightful narratives free from moralizations, myths, and the host of stories, legends, traditions, that have been a joy and an inspiration to successive generations of youth with voracious literary cravings.

A third requisite of the content of primers is that early reading must be well illustrated. The picture, in a good reading system, is often an integral part of the reading method. It must, therefore, be artistic in drawing, form and color, even when judged by adult standards. We must discard the cheap cuts that are scattered haphazard throughout the books to relieve the monotony of print and swell the number of pages. The illustrations must be full of action, must arouse constructive fancy and prompt rich and productive imagery in the minds of the children.

But the developing mind of the prepubescent or the pubescent in the grammar grades makes unnecessary elaborate and numerous illustrations. Used with injudicious frequency, these graphic appeals are positive dangers. They weaken imagination by giving it undue aid; they prevent the artist in the child’s mind from painting his own picture by restricting him to what the eye sees; “they appeal to the senses, where mind and heart should be touched.”

The fourth requisite of the content of the primer demands that the theme of the reading matter be adjusted to the experience of the child. A general content will not suit all children; there must be a wise and discriminating organization so that content most natural to city children will not be imposed on country children, and vice versa. Too often the content unduly transcends the circumference of the child’s experience. The best of the most extensively used primers are found to contain stories and reading matter dealing with the cultivation of soil, the products of garden and orchard, the habits of common animals, etc., concepts that are native to children in rural sections, but foreign to their city cousins. An examination into the content of the minds of children brought these remarkable figures: 54 per cent. of the children in a school did not know a sheep; 18 per cent., a cow; 52 per cent., a bee; 19 per cent., a hen; 50 per cent., a squirrel; 70 per cent., a snail. Nevertheless, the reading content of their primers assumed a first-hand knowledge of these nature facts. While the reading matter should widen the child’s horizon, it is evident that the pupil must be taken out of his sphere of experience gradually and with due preparation.

2. Mechanics of the Primer.—But there is a second side to the organization of the primer. Not only must the content be literary, but it must be designed to develop ability to extract thought when new words or new combinations of phonic elements occur. The primer must meet these mechanical requisites if it is to develop independent reading. To these we must now turn.

First, there must be repetition to insure mastery of form. The reading matter must be so framed that the same words occur again and again, and new words are introduced that are built on the same basal phonogram. But at no time must repetition be secured at the price of literary content. Such text as “What ails the lock? Why do you fail to see the tails of the flock?” shows an attempt to reduce the phonic elements ail and ock to habit, but the exercise is only a phonic drill, and cannot attain the dignity of a reading lesson. A cumulative tale in the McCloskey Primer, or in the “Progressive Road to Reading,” is an illustration of content designed to give necessary repetitions without sacrificing form to thought.

Secondly, phonic difficulties must be well graded. Each new lesson and each succeeding story must not only introduce a new set of words having the same family trait, but must also repeat preceding words and utilize old phonograms until their recognition is instantaneous. The forms in reading must be reduced to habit; habit knows only one price, repetition.

Finally, the primer must meet the hygienic requisites that were outlined in a previous discussion. The illustrations must be so placed that they allow for a fair degree of uniformity in the length of lines; the lines must not be long; the type must be of standard size, and the paper must be of a white or yellowish tint, and completely free of gloss.

Conclusion.—The primary teacher reviewing this long list of requisites may feel discouraged when she seeks them in the books given to her class. The limitations in the content can be counteracted, however, for blackboard and charts can be used frequently to give better subject-matter. But, although nothing can be done if the book is wrong in its mechanical organization, it is, nevertheless, worth knowing the limitations under which we labor, for only then are we ready to demand intelligent reform.


Value of Systematic Reading to Pupils.—An excellent method of developing a literary sense in children is to bring them into contact with as much appropriate literature as possible from the very beginning of the school course. The formal reading periods are usually governed by specific difficulties of technical English, and do not allow the teacher to give the class more than a glimpse of the vast literary treasures in store for them. Only by systematic reading to pupils can we give them that acquaintanceship with literature that develops a sense of appreciation for literary masterpieces. Such an interest in literature gives excellent occupation for leisure hours, teaches a new means of recreation, cultivates imagination, refines emotions, and creates ideals of right living. Reading to children gives them not only this wider knowledge of literature, but presents to them models of correct speech. It is evident, then, that reading to children must not degenerate into a mere pastime, nor be indulged in spasmodically at the passing whim of the teacher, or as a means of relieving the mental ennui of the children. Part of the general reading course must assign systematic, regular and graded material to be read by the teachers to pupils in every class.

Suggestion to Teachers in Reading to Children.—1. These values of reading to children cannot be realized unless the teacher sets up a definite aim in each selection and then tries to realize it. Thus, one selection is read because its dialogue affords the teacher an opportunity of offering the class a good model of oral reading, another, because of the ethical principle which is so vividly taught, or another, because it is a good means of introducing children to a type of story, or to the works of a particular writer. The aim gives method and meaning to each period.

2. In reading to children, teachers must make a practice of stopping at logical pauses and questioning the class on the content. If the pupils remember the phraseology of the text, they should be allowed to use it in their answers. In addition to making for greater familiarity with the material presented, this questioning enriches the children’s vocabularies.

3. As far as possible, the child should be more than a passive listener throughout the reading. Dramatizations, pictorial representations, and oral discussions, are forms of expression that should be required of children to make them active agents in the lesson.

4. In all questioning the teacher must not allow the period to degenerate into an informal one designed to elaborate the work of geography, history, or nature study. The distinctive characteristic of this reading must be its literary spirit.

5. In all reading great care should be given to clearness of articulation and enunciation. Sounds incorrectly uttered by the children should be exaggerated in correctness by the teacher so that each child’s ear reverberates with the correct auditory impression.

6. In reading to the class the teacher’s eyes must not be riveted on the book. There must be enough familiarity with the matter read to enable the teacher to look from the page to the class. The changes in facial expression and the appeal of the eyes enable the story to “come across” and make for a sympathetic response from the children.

7. At times the teacher may be relieved from continued oral reading by a pupil, but in all such cases only the best readers should be called.

Suggestions for Supervising “Reading to Children.”—If interest is to be maintained, and the children are to derive the fund of values that were ascribed to “reading to children,” supervisors must see that these readings are systematic, graded and varied throughout the course. It is not unusual to see daily schedules of primary classes with no provision for reading to children. These periods must be as definitely indicated as others. Supervisors allow each teacher to read what seems appropriate to her; the inevitable result is lack of gradation and duplications in successive grades. It is the duty of the supervisor to collect as many sources of reading material as possible; application to the nearest library authorities will usually bring a host of titles of appropriate readings. Each teacher is then invited to select from these recommendations what she considers best suited to her grade; this becomes the assignment for her class for the school term. At the end of the term each teacher criticizes the assignments, indicating those that were found uninteresting, or too difficult, or too simple, or better suited for another grade. The supervisor must correct the assignments in the light of the experience of the teachers and her personal judgment. The second term finds a more favorable allotment of material in each grade. In this manner the “reading to children” becomes graded, systematic, and varied, and thus contributes liberally to each child’s literary stock.


The Dignity of Story-telling.—The poet who laments “The days of minstrelsy are gone” expresses for youth its deep sense of loss. Every child is a romanticist, in whose life the minstrel occupies an exalted place, satisfying a deep-seated love for story, which is part of childhood itself. Story-telling has, therefore, a dignity and an importance all its own. It is an art that few teachers possess and many must cultivate. The art of story-telling must be emphasized in the classroom today, because there is vital need of giving our children part of their heritage of literary lore long before they are introduced to the symbols of reading. The more the love of story is strengthened, the more eager does the child become to satisfy it. Hence, when the child is old enough to learn to read, he finds urgent motive for mastering symbols and phonic elements, for these he regards as the path to new joys—new stories. Secondly, the story is a vital part of many methods of teaching reading to beginners. Unless the story is told well in a method like the McCloskey, or the Progressive Road, or the Aldine, the spirit of intense pleasure and anticipation is lost, and the work becomes the same arduous task as in the other methods.

Purposes of Story-telling.—But story-telling, like any part of classroom work, has its definite purposes. What ends must we have in view in telling the children a series of selected stories?

1. Our first aim and the object that should be part of every story period is to give the child the joy to be found in our literary possessions. A story, like any other literary form, is basically a work of art; the justification for the art element in the curriculum is the justification of the story. Pleasure is hence its keynote. The story plays an important part in the game of life, its function being to add the spirit of excitement, beauty, and emotional strain, to life’s routine. Pleasure, not instruction, is the message of the story. “The story must enlarge and enrich the spiritual possessions of the child.”

2. A second aim of the story may be the informational end. But this must be incidental and thoroughly subordinated to the former. It must be both secondary and implied. One learns history, sociology, psychology, etc., from the drama and the novel, but this aspect in these literary forms is neither vital nor basic.

3. The story may well be used as a means of giving relief from classroom intensity. At the end of a regular physical training lesson, with its demand for uniformity, close attention, keen concentration, and readiness for instantaneous response the child may be just as fatigued mentally as before the lesson. The story brings complete relief and it relaxes the strained nerves. This complete relief serves to intensify concentration when work is resumed.

4. A story is often the best medium of establishing a bond of sympathy between children and teacher. It is an effective instrument for creating the necessary “rapport”; it is an “open sesame” to the heart of children. Many a sad substitute teacher has found the story the best means of introducing herself to the class and seizing hold of the situation.

5. The story is an excellent medium by means of which the power of sustained attention can be developed in the children. Their fleeting interests, their evanescent joys, must become long-lived; these shifting mental activities must be sustained until they can carry the child to a desired end. What better means to introduce sustained attention in the child’s mental life than the story?

6. As a means of developing the expressional powers of the children, the story has no equal. The teacher of composition in the primary grades finds that the children’s natural timidity and backwardness, their self-consciousness, form the first serious difficulty. The story enlists their interests, they become absorbed in it, and, for the time being, forget themselves. Spontaneous expression is now made possible. What forms of expression shall we demand? In the main any one of the following three ways will suffice: Mere retelling in the child’s own words, even with a touch of originality as to details and sequence, is one way. Pictorial illustration is a second mode of expression. Where drawing in the early classes is taught as a form of composition, a medium for the expression of one’s thoughts in graphic rather than verbal form, the pictures, characters, or situations of the story can be drawn by the children. Dramatization forms the next important means of expression. But, in carrying it out, we must remember that all children must participate in classroom dramatizations. A star performance has no place in the class. Then, too, the timid child must not be forced; he may be invited, coaxed and encouraged. Failure in a forced attempt may mean permanent discouragement.

7. The final purpose of the story may be to arouse moral judgments. We must not force a moral if the story does not yield one spontaneously, nor is it necessary that every story should be freighted with a moral.

Selection of Stories to Tell.—Before telling the story one naturally submits it, consciously or unconsciously, to the standards: “Is it appropriate? Is it well arranged?” But we must be sure that we answer these questions from the children’s viewpoint, rather than from our adult judgment. What do they seem to prefer in stories? A similar series of varied stories was read to different groups of children. At the end of the term, a vote was taken, and it was found by Miss Bryant that “The Three Bears,” “The Little Pigs,” “The Woman and the Pig” were voted the most popular. From their selections and from their eliminations we can readily outline a series of merits that children demand in stories. Three characteristics of the stories chosen by the children are: (1) The story must abound in action. “Something happens all the time. Each step is an event.” There are no descriptions, no gaps, no moralizing, nothing to impede the movement of the story. (2) The pictures must be about things well known to the children. In the “Three Bears” we have the animals, a spoon, a house, a chair, a bed, etc. The story so orders these that an element of mystery tinges all the incidents and transports the children into Bearland. (3) The stories must be cumulative, repetitive. Each story is built up by a spiral of repetition, each circle repeats the previous incident and adds a new touch. This type of story appeals to the child, because it gives increased familiarity with each phase of the story. Just as we experience a feeling of joy in recognizing a quotation, or a motif in music, so, too, the child is delighted to recognize and feel each repetition. There is a joy in keeping the sequence accurate. This can be done with no effort in the cumulative tale, because of the repetitions.

How to Tell a Story.—The successful story-teller follows, unconsciously, perhaps, a few important principles. What shall the inexperienced narrator remember to guide him?

1. Know the Message of the Story.—Since a story is a work of art, it has a message. We must make sure that we have found it before we attempt to give it to others. The message varies with the story. It may be one of humor, of pathos, of sincerity, of morality, or of nonsense. We must find the basic appeal of the story and then let it control the whole period.

2. Feel the Basic Emotion.—The message of a story cannot be delivered unless it is actually felt by the messenger. Hence, one must never attempt to tell a story one does not feel. The sham of pretense is apparent at once; the appreciation must be genuine. The final test before telling a story is, “Does the narrator enjoy the telling?”

3. Aim at Correct Technique.—The technique of the telling has considerable influence in determining the appeal and the effect which the story will make. Hence we must be sure of a number of factors that determine effective, well-polished technique.

(a) Know your story. In the telling there must be no halting for a name, a place, or a date. The narrator must not allow the story to show contradictions of facts or incidents. The story must be so familiar that at no point does it become necessary to improvise. It must have the smoothness of a personal incident, free from every suggestion of effort and labor.

(b) The story need not be memorized. To secure the proper grace and ease of narration many professional story-tellers memorize their stories in their early attempts. The opinion seems general that in memorization there is grave danger of becoming stilted and artificial. As the words fall mechanically from the lips, they betray a lack of spontaneity.

(c) Proper physical conditions must be secured. If possible, children ought to be seated in a semicircle, or in two semicircles, while listening to the story. With the unfortunate furniture which prevails this is impossible, but in almost every class children can be brought closer to the narrator. The children must always see the teacher’s face; they must be “physically close to be mentally close.”

(d) The voice is the chief agent in technique. The teacher must never stop the story to admonish William or Mary for a petty offense. Continue with the story, in the hope that it has enough charm and interest to quiet the children. The voice should at all times be sympathetic and subdued. A loud voice kills all feeling and makes proper atmosphere and appeal impossible. But there is no reason for painful refinement or an artificial whisper.

(e) Be in the mood. The best means to get oneself into the proper emotional setting is to have the characteristic picture of the story flash repeatedly through one’s mind. There must be a sincere effort to take on the dominant mood from the very beginning.

(f) Tell it “simply, directly, dramatically.” This is the essence of Miss Bryant’s advice. “Simply” cautions against posing and affectations. “Directly” advises that we go straight through the story, get to its very heart, but with no explanation. “Dramatically” cautions to avoid the mannerisms of the elocutionist. It urges a vivid, responsive, sincere narration, with the gestures, the voice, and the speech pauses of natural life. If the story itself cannot touch the child’s heart, no ranting or gesticulating will.

The Moral.—Many an excellent story loses its appeal, fails to grip the children and provoke the designed response because of the moralizing indulged in by the teacher. “Don’t Moralize” should be emblazoned in shining letters as a warning against the common pitfall. Let the story, through its sentiments, make its own appeal. If the story cannot, the teacher cannot. An explanation or a concrete application that is deemed necessary may be given briefly at some point during the story, but in the end the story must teach its own lesson; the final appeal must be the appeal made by the story itself. No story has ever made a good child of a bad one. But the cumulative effect of story upon story, appeal upon appeal, has a keen and subtle influence which we cannot estimate. The moralizer robs the story of its lasting effect.


Bryant, Sarah Cone. How to Tell Stories. Houghton, Mifflin Co.

Bryant, Sarah Cone. Stories to Tell. Houghton, Mifflin Co.

Carpenter, Baker and Scott. Teaching of English, 81-98.

Chubb, P. The Teaching of English, chaps. VI, IX.

Goldwasser, I. E. Method and Methods in the Teaching of English, chaps. VI, X.

Hosic, James F. The Elementary Course in English, pp. 57-121, and the Appendix. University of Chicago Press.

Huey, Edmund B. Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, chaps. XIII, XIX.

Laing, Mary E. Reading, a Manual for Teachers, chaps. XV, XVI, XVII.

Moses, Montrose J. Children’s Books and Reading. Mitchell Kennerly.

Partridge, E. N., and G. E. Story Telling in School and Home. Sturgis and Walton.

Reeder, R. R. Historical Development of School Readers and of Methods of Teaching Reading. Columbia University Contributions to Phil. Psy. and Ed., viii, No. 2. Macmillan Co.

Reading Lists for Children. A. L. A. List, Washington, D. C. Pittsburgh Library List. Chicago Public Library, “Help to Teachers,” No. 1. New York Public library, Juvenile List. Course of Study in Reading, Indianapolis, Indiana.

St. John, Ed. P. Stories and Story Telling in Moral and Religious Education. Pilgrim Press, Boston and New York.

Vostrovsky, Clara. A Study of Children’s Reading Tastes. Pedagogical Seminary, vi, 523-535.



The Objects of Phonics.—However literary a reading method may be in its inception and early development, its final efficiency is appreciably decreased if it does not develop power for independent reading by reducing the recognition and interpretation of symbols to the plane of habit. Phonics, or phonetics, must be coördinate with thought in any reading method, for the following reasons:

1. The child must develop a habit of attacking new words that occur in his reading.

2. Ability to recognize these new word-forms is determined by a knowledge of phonograms and the sounds which they represent. This knowledge of phonics serves an equally important rôle in spelling.

3. The correct sound cannot be uttered unless the child hears it correctly. A study of phonics must sharpen auditory perception and develop greater sensitiveness for correct sound through systematic ear training.

4. Correct sound cannot be uttered unless the child has perfect control of the necessary organs of speech. Through phonic drills the child learns to use the organs of speech in perfect coördination.

5. A systematic and graded study of phonics develops clear articulation, correct enunication, and proper voice control; without these, the purity of spoken English degenerates to the careless and vulgar level of the street.

The Necessary Facts of Phonics.—The efficiency of the teacher’s work in phonics will be determined by her knowledge of the basic facts of sound production, as well as by her pedagogical expertness. We must summarize, therefore, the necessary basis of facts.

Terms Defined.—The terms phonic and phonetic are used loosely in the literature of reading. Most writers make no distinction between them beyond the diacritical marks that characterize phonetics. Some authors use phonics to refer to the study of sound, and phonetics, in a larger sense, to include sound and its representation by symbols. Since these distinctions are more honored in the breach than in the observance, we may define both phonics and phonetics as the science of speech sound, while a phonogram is merely the written representation of a sound. The symbols b, d, k, ight, ing, f, are therefore phonograms.

What is Speech?—We must distinguish two important phases of speech, the organic and the acoustic. The former refers to the organs of speech production, which can be grouped under three heads: (1) Organs of Articulation: teeth, tongue, lips, and palate; (2) Organs of Breath and Voice: vocal chords, laryngeal muscles, glottis; (3) Organs of Coöperation: chest, abdominal muscles, lungs, diaphragm, etc. The great number of coöperating organs necessary for speech explains why accurate articulation and enunciation are impossible very often with young children, who have not developed reliable coördination; why speech is physically fatiguing; why speech, which, under ordinary circumstances may be careful, often becomes careless during fatigue; why conditions which are enervating always aggravate speech difficulties of stammerers, and why habits of correct speech are developed with such difficulty in foreign-born children. The acoustic phase of speech concerns itself only with the quality of sound, control of breath, and resonance.

In the light of its organic and acoustic aspects, speech is only breath expelled by the lungs and modified either in the throat or in the mouth. If the reader will merely exhale a breath through the mouth he will find that no speech sound results. Let him now expel a breath again, and modify it in the throat, and he will recognize some vowel sound; the utterance of ah, or eh, will illustrate this process. If he will now expel breath and not interfere with it until it gets into the mouth chamber, but there subject it to some modification, a consonant sound will be produced. In giving the sound of s, t, p, he will go through this process.

Classification of Sound According to the Manner of Production.—An analysis of the mode of speech production, i. e., breath expelled by the lungs and modified by the throat or the mouth, gives three classes of sounds, as can be seen in the following table:

How ProducedIllustrationTechnical Names
1.Those in which there is mere breath explosion or fiction.wh-p-t-k-f-th as in thin.Pure Consonants, Atonics, Surds.
2.Those in which there is a vocal murmur modified by the size and the shape of the mouth.a in ate, at, far, fall.Breath consonants. Vowels, Vocals, Tonics.
3.Those produced by combining breath explosion or friction with a vocal murmur......w-b-d-g-v-th as in them.Semi-Consonants, Sonants, Subtonics, Voiced Consonants.

The reader can best understand this grouping by actually uttering these sounds and studying the processes involved.

The Consonant Further Considered.—From the table it is evident that consonants are the result of “audible friction, or stopping of the breath, in some part of the mouth or throat.” All consonants can therefore be whispered, while no vowel can. An attempt to whisper the sounds of wh and w, p and b, t and d, k and g, th as in thin, th as in them, will reveal the fact that the pure consonants which are produced by mere breath explosion or friction can be whispered more softly and with greater ease than those which have an element of vocal murmur in them. Here we have the reason for the usual classification of consonant sounds into “voiced” and “unvoiced,” such as is given below. Consonants are usually more important in oral speech than vowels, for their careless utterance does more to produce lack of clearness than wrong vowel values. Let the reader speak a sentence twice, first giving the vowels wrong values and then slurring the consonants; he will notice that, while the first reading gives mispronunciations the second produces an unintelligible result. The following table[22] of consonant elements in the English tongue is much used today; it groups the sounds not in alphabetical order, but according to the mode and place of utterance.

Table of Consonant Elements in English
Mode and Place of UtteranceMomentaryContinuous___________
Lips and Teethfv
Tongue and Teethth inkth em
Tongue and Hard Palate (forward)tdsz:rn
Tongue and Hard Palate (back)chjshzh:r
Tongue, Hard Palate and Soft Palatey:l
Tongue and Soft Palatekgng
Indeterminate (Various Places)h


Vowels Further Considered.—A vowel, we saw, is nothing more than voice (breath murmured in the throat), modified by the shape of the mouth. Let the reader utter the vowel sounds in the words bee, gay, ask, cut, awful, pool, and notice that the same voice is used in all, but the configuration of the mouth is changed by the movements of the tongue, lower jaw, lips, and soft palate. The mouth is a resonance chamber, which changes the quality of a vowel with its change in shape. Vowels are the musical elements in speech, for they can all be sung.

Since the changing value of vowel sounds is produced by changing the configuration of the mouth, it becomes necessary to arrange the vowels in a graded scale so that, in going from each successive one, the shape of the mouth chamber changes gradually. The old classification studied the sounds of a as ā (āte), ă (ăt), ä (fär), â (fâll); then of e as ē (mēre), ĕ (nĕst), ë (hër); then of i, o, and u. There is obviously no gradation of vowel values in this series. Bell arranged the vowel values in the following sequence, according to their values. If the reader will sound the successive vowels a few times to become familiar with them, and then repeat the exercise and note the changing positions of tongue and lips, he will see at once the basic principle in this sequence[23]:

Lip ChangesBell’s Vowel ChartTongue Changes
The lips are tense1ee(long)bee
and parallel at ee{2i(short)pin
(bee) and i (pin)3a(long)gay
(long)e’er}The tongue gradually
5a(short)hatmoves down and
The lips are6a(long)askback in going from
relaxed and{7a(long)fatheree (bee) to e (her)
rounded at a8e(long)her
(long)curtainThe back of the
10o(short)nottongue gradually
11aw(long)awful}moves up and
The lips are{12o(long)oldback in going
puckered at13oo(short)goodfrom u (cut) to
oo (good)oo(long)pooloo (pool)


Value of Scientific Gradation of Vowel Values.—The practical teacher may admit that Bell’s vowel table is more logical and even more scientific than the old classification of the sounds according to a, e, i, o, and u, but still may ask, “What is its practical pedagogical value?” Let us assume that a child of foreign birth cannot utter the correct vowel value in the words cut, up, sup; each of these he reads as cot, op, and sop, respectively. Imitation proves useless, for the child has few English sounds in terms of which to apperceive the vowel sound in question. Instruction as to proper relative positions of the organs of speech is equally useless, because the differences in the organic processes of u in cut and o in not are too slight to admit of demonstration to such a child. Let the teacher have recourse to the Bell table and require children to sound the vowels in succession, from number one through eight. If the child can sound these correctly, the vowel in question, u in up, will be uttered without difficulty, because the gradual and successive changes in the configurations of the mouth for the first eight sounds will practically force the proper mouth configuration for the ninth vowel value. The phonic lessons in any system of reading should teach the vowels in this scientific gradation, rather than in the haphazard sequence which is determined by successive sight words.

Diacritical Marks.—A source of endless strife in phonic work is the use of auxiliary symbols to fix variable sounds. Most of the recent methods either entirely eliminate diacritical marks, or else use them only in exceptional cases. Experience shows that diacritical marks in early reading are usually of little service to children and sometimes are the cause of much confusion. But this does not mean that they are never to be taught. While they are unnecessary in early phonic and word recognition, they are invaluable for later use when the dictionary becomes an important factor in the child’s linguistic studies. Some standard set of diacritical marks should be divided among three or four grades, and taught gradually in lessons designed to develop ability to use the dictionary.

The Gradation of Phonograms.—It is obvious that no attempt can be made to grade phonograms unless there are definite principles in accordance with which we are to distinguish a difficult from a simple phonogram. The distinction between simple and compound phonograms affords no basis of gradation. A simple phonogram is a one-letter phonogram, like f, l, m, p, k, w, while a compound phonogram is one that contains a number of letters, like ing, ight, ar, er, or at. Length is no index of the difficulty of a phonogram.

Ward, in his “Rational Method of Reading,” gives the following three principles that determine which phonograms shall be taught early:

1. Those that are uttered with ease by the children: m, p, f, s are examples of these, while th, wh, r cannot be included under this head.

2. Those that can be prolonged into words without losing their identity. The phonogram ight is compound, but, when it is sounded in words like light, bright, night, its sound, īt, is as clear as when it is sounded by itself. But, let the reader sound the phonograms ar, er, or, first, as three separate sounds, and then speak the words beggar, editor, and singer. The untrained ear hardly differentiates the sound of begger from beggar, or editer from editor. Hence, er, ar, ir, ur, or, are classed as difficult phonograms.

3. Those that are common to many words of frequent use. The phonogram th (voiced) is difficult, but must be taught early because the frequency of its occurrence tends to make its correct enunciation more simple.

If a reading method begins, not with a few unrelated sentences, but with an entire story, the stock of sight words is sufficiently large to enable the teacher to choose only such words for phonic analysis as will teach the easier phonograms first.

How to Teach a Phonogram.—Let us assume that the phonogram ight is to be taught. How shall the lesson be developed, in order to secure the best results in the limited time? The progress of the successive steps is indicated in the following outline:

1. The Teacher’s Preparation.—The teacher must ask:

a. Is the phonogram in the correct place in the graded series of phonic lessons?

b. Does the phonic element ight grow out of sight words previously learned?

c. Will the phonic element be useful in later word-building? Will it give the child ability to read a long list of words independently?

d. Have all the mechanical details been mastered?

   i. Is there doubt about the pronunciation?

  ii. Is there doubt about the position of the organs of speech, in order to produce the sound of ight?

 iii. Is the complete list of words containing the phonogram ight ready?

2. The Lesson.—a. Ear training is the initial exercise of the lesson. The children hear the teacher pronounce a number of words containing the phonogram ight, with exaggerated clearness. The children are then called upon to sound the words individually, and are criticized by the teacher and their classmates. The teacher tells the children a story, and introduces the words might, right, fight, sight, etc., with unusual distinctness and clearness, and then calls on the pupils for individual reproductions of these words or sentences. Another procedure is to give the children a few of these words, might, fight, and ask them to think of other words that rhyme with these. Any method that will sharpen auditory perception, make the children sensitive to the sound of ight, and give them a good apperceptive auditory stock, is an excellent preparation for the lesson.

b. Phonic analysis, which isolates the sound of ight, is the next effort in the lesson. This the teacher can accomplish in one of two ways: (i) by exaggerated slowness of utterance, fff īt, mmm īt, or (ii) by a comparison of the family of ight words. In the second procedure the teacher asks the children to listen for a similar sound in the following series, right, fight, tight, etc. When the sound of ight is isolated, children are called individually to utter it with great distinctness. This step ends when the children learn the visual symbols “ight” and ight for the sound.

c. The synthetic step or the blend is the last step in the lesson, for the child now learns to read any word whose basal phonogram is ight. It is here that the fruits of phonic analysis and ear training are reaped, and the child develops independence in reading. To facilitate the drill of blending known phonic elements with ight to produce a new word, mechanical devices are suggested. Typical of these easily made aids we may mention the following: An ordinary board, about 30 inches long and 3 inches wide, has a hole (y) at one end by means of which it is suspended from the frame of the blackboard, and a nail (x) at the other, which acts as a pivot on which circular cardboards are revolved. A circular disk, having a diameter of about 15 inches, is cut from ordinary cardboard. The center is perforated and is revolved on the pivot nail. On the circular disk the teacher writes s, l, f, n, r, t, and on the board ight. By revolving the cardboard disk, the words sight, light, fight, etc., can be produced instantaneously. Other drills, with stairs, ladders, railroad ties, games, etc., will be found in manuals of primary reading. These mechanical devices enable the drill to become spirited and help toward permanent fixation and the inculcation of the habit of instantaneous recognition.

General Directions for All Phonic Lessons.—Cumulative experience has shown the wisdom of certain devices in the teaching of phonics, and the limitations of others. We must, therefore, sum up for the class teacher, the constructive suggestions for all phonic lessons.

1. The Analytic Synthetic Procedure.—Every phonic lesson must begin with words containing the specific phonogram to be taught. The words selected for phonic analysis must also be such as are known at sight. The sequence of the complete lesson is therefore: from sight words to phonogram, and then back again to a rich stock of words formed by phonic synthesis.

2. Motivation.—As far as possible the objects of phonic drills shall be made a conscious goal for the children. After a few lessons, they should be led to realize that phonic mastery means better speech and independent reading. The new attitude which the children will take toward ensuing lessons dispels the seeming drudgery, and guarantees active coöperation and interest in personal progress.

3. In the Blend, Place the Burden on the Child.—The test of the efficiency of the lesson lies in the ability of the child to read new words. It is therefore unwise to give undue aid during the synthetic step. If unusual difficulty is here experienced, the cause lies in lack of preparation or lack of mastery of phonic elements previously taught.

4. The Content Aspect in Phonics.—Although phonics deals with formalism in language, thought need not be excluded. All results of phonic blends should be real words. Frequently children should be required to give evidence of ability to recognize new words by acting them out, drawing them, or pointing out the objects they represent. Thus, the phonogram taught was ing; when the teacher puts the word sing on the board during the blend, the child regards it as a request, and sings, do, re, me; at the word ring, another child draws a circle on the board. These exercises tend to reëstablish the basic association in reading, symbol-thought association, and add an interest which comes from dealing with ideas, rather than with pure form.

5. Instantaneous Recognition.—It should be the aim of the synthetic step to develop almost instantaneous recognition of new words. A well-graded course that unfolds the phonic elements slowly, and provides sufficient drill, can develop the habit of rapid word recognition without slow, laborious lip-reading. In all grades lip-reading should be discouraged; in the third year it should be prohibited, for it tends to develop habits of word reading instead of thought acquisition.

6. Grouping According to Specific Inabilities.—In all phonic work, concert answering should be regarded skeptically. Each child, whether correct or not in his utterances, becomes an unconscious model for his neighbor and the successive imitations sink gradually, but surely, to lower levels. The rapid individual recitation is imperative in phonic lessons.

The mode of instruction, as well as the conduct of the recitation, must be thoroughly individualized. All children have their difficulties in phonics, but not all labor under the same limitations. Some can recognize all phonograms, but are defective in enunciation; other children utter some sounds accurately, but are unable to reproduce others, etc. It is evident that any system of class teaching in phonics will give children only passing attention in their weak points, and expend much more time in drilling on what they know. As soon as practical, the class should be grouped according to weaknesses along important lines, and the instruction should seek to give to each child his specific needs.

7. Undue Emphasis on Organic Phase of Speech.—Advisable as it is to teach the correct relative position of the organs of speech in difficult sounds, it is nevertheless wise to realize the limitations of this information. The following procedure for teaching correct sound is outlined for teachers in a certain manual: (a) Utter the sound; (b) explain position of organs of speech; (c) let each child with mirror in hand study the relative position of his own teeth, tongue, etc.; (d) let the children attempt the pronunciation. Here we have an illustration of undue emphasis on the organic aspect of speech, which must be condemned.

All speech eventually sinks to the level of habit. The aim must therefore be to make utterance of speech an unconscious process. Let the teacher utter the sound with exceptional clearness and accuracy, and call upon the children individually to imitate. A few attempts and repetitions will show that a majority of the class learns new sounds by imitation, and through repetition develops the habit of correct speech. To emphasize the organic aspect of speech to these children makes speech a conscious process for them. It should also be noted that a nervous child, who often succeeds when he imitates the teacher, fails after he learns the correct position of the organs of speech, for now he has a new set of conditions to control and added coördinations to make consciously. Only those children who cannot reproduce a sound correctly after repeated attempts to imitate the clearly enunciated speech of the teacher, should be introduced to the organic phase of speech.

The Elimination of Habitual Mispronunciations.—The occasional mispronunciations that one hears from children, municípal, execútive, and the like, need cause little worry. These drop out in time in the course of experience, because of corrections by teachers, contact with older people who speak correctly, attendance at lectures, etc These errors are usually personal, and differ with each individual. The types of mispronunciation that must be the concern of the school are those that are heard in ever-increasing circles, and tend to drag our spoken language to the level of the street. Errors like dat, goil, hist-ry, singin’, w’ite, t’row, Toosday, are no longer individual weaknesses, but are found in large groups in every class; their eradication is an imperative duty. It is evident that these linguistic mutilations can be traced to definite contributing causes—and that remedial measures which do not take cognizance of these causes and seek to counteract them, are inevitably doomed to failure. Our procedure will be to ascertain the causes and then, evolve a remedial program.

Causes of Habitual Mispronunciations.—Chief among the conditions that make for slovenly speech we must enumerate the following:

1. Foreign linguistic characteristics are carried over into English. The Jewish child hears and speaks in his home the language of peculiar gutturals. He brings these over to his English, and turns song into sonk, and Long Island into Lonk Kiland; the German child brings the flat, dull d and the broad vowels of his language to the word that, and turns it into daat; another child of foreign parentage intonates his English with the cadence peculiar to the language of his parents.

2. The influence of the street helps to keep spoken English on a low level. Few children have the courage to carry the correctly enunciated th or wh of those and which, or the correct u in duty, to their playmates. In the few hours allotted to it the school must engage in conflict with innumerable retarding forces that make up the greater part of the child’s social environment. Not only must the school develop habits of correct speech, but it must spend much of its energies undermining existing habits of incorrect speech.

3. Indifference to proper speech, or sheer carelessness of utterance contributes materially toward the slovenliness of the language of the street. Not until children understand the need of correctly spoken language will they experience a motive sufficiently vital to stir in them an honest endeavor at self-improvement and a pride in purity and grace of speech.

4. Lack of proper apperceptive auditory basis is another contributing cause of incorrect oral speech. Many children of foreign parentage hear so little English that the auditory center fails to interpret accurately the sounds that are made by the teacher. The ear has become so accustomed to the competing language that it can no longer hear accurately the pure English sound. Many such children make no distinction between t’row and throw, w’ite and white, in their speech, because they hear none in the most accurately enunciated speech of others. Tireless patience, repeated appeals, exaggerated enunciation and a more intimate relation to the English language in the hours after school, gradually develop an auditory sensitivity which enables the child to hear these differences.

5. Wrong position of the organs of speech makes correct utterance impossible. Where imitation fails, the teacher must show the child the necessary positions and coördinations of the speech organs.

6. Physical or physiological impediments, like the absence of teeth, poor articulation of teeth, thickness of tongue, short ligaments, malformation of the jaw, are handicaps to correct speech that teachers must note, for some of these can be corrected by surgical or dental treatment.

The Correction of Habitual Errors.—1. Passing attention to mispronunciations will not develop habits of correct speech. In every grade the teacher is held responsible for the correction of all errors in children’s oral speech. When the mispronunciation is heard, the child is corrected and the matter is dismissed until the child offends again in his pronunciation. It is obvious that such spasmodic and haphazard correction lacks the vigor and the concentrated drill that tend to eradicate these habits of erroneous speech. To eliminate these, each teacher must be held responsible for a few definite corrections. The principal or supervisor should list all common mispronunciations that occur in children’s speech. These should then be subdivided among the grades of the first five or six years. Such a list will not contain more than eighteen or twenty common mispronunciations; dividing these among the six grades, from the beginning of the third year through the end of the fifth, we have an average of three to a grade. The third-year teacher feels that by unrelenting drill and by emphasis in every lesson, she must break the habit in her children of (1) dropping final g, “seein’,” (2) slurring or omitting r, “boid,” and (3) turning th (them) into d, “dem.” In this grade other mistakes are corrected when they occur, but only three are singled out for vigorous drill. In this way, all common errors can be eliminated by the end of the fifth school year. This seems a reasonable result. But to require every teacher in every grade to correct every error of oral speech is to court failure.

2. Make a strong auditory appeal. Having determined to eradicate dem for them, the teacher now sounds a list of words that begin with the voiced th. This list is repeated two or three times with exaggerated enunciation of the th until every ear reverberates with the sound of the voiced th. If the child hears foreign sounds in his home, or incorrect th on the street, his ear must be forcibly assailed by the correct th.

3. Secure motivation and imitation. After leading children to realize that correct pronunciation has unmistakable worth in their social intercourse, let them reproduce the sound as made by the teacher. Those who succeed are given sentences to read that involve d and th, e. g., “Don’t deny them those delights.” This is kept up until correct th becomes a habit in speech.

4. Explain organic processes to those who fail. Only those children who fail in their repeated endeavors to imitate the teacher’s model speech must be shown how the organs of speech are to be used in order to produce the sound in question. Each pupil should have a small mirror, and should study the organic processes necessary for correct utterance of the sound. The children should look at the teacher carefully as she whispers these sounds to them; they should be told to speak these sounds without voice as the teacher watches them and criticizes the positions of the different organs of speech. If the organic phase is correct, children should be called upon individually to produce the sound simultaneously with the teacher. As each child succeeds he is put into the group that reads sentences designed to make the correct utterance of the sound an unconscious process.

Infinite patience is required. After all this careful work, foreign children, when called upon to pronounce them, often put the tongue between the teeth, vibrate the tongue a moment and say thththdem. These children evidently hear the correct sound, have learned its organic phase, but have not yet developed the coördinations necessary to produce it. Untiring drill will bring results.

5. Employ certain mechanical aids. a. “Tongue Twisters” is the inelegant name for those artificial rhymes and nonsense jingles designed to give practice in certain sounds. The famous query, “If Theosophus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter, sifted three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb, then where are the three thousand thistles that Theosophus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter, sifted through the thick of his thumb?” is an illustration of the host of drills found in any technical volume on phonics. A list of these books is given at the end of the chapter.

b. The lisper, who turns all sounds of s into th, e. g., “Thæsar thaid that he thaw” for “Cæsar said that he saw,” can be helped if he will assiduously practice reading such sentences in front of a mirror and keep pushing the tongue, as it comes forward, back into the mouth. In saying “saw,” the lisper puts the tongue out too far, and produces a soft th; as soon as the tongue is pushed back of the teeth the soft th becomes an s, and thaw becomes saw.

c. The Russian whose attachment for the sound of w leads him to read wery wiwacious for very vivacious, can produce the sound of v by biting the lower lip with the upper teeth; a “very vivacious and villainous villain” will now be read correctly. The person who commits the opposite fault, viz., who reads, Vell Villiam, what vould you have? can produce the sound of w by puckering his lips, saying oo, oo, oo, and approachiag his finger gently to his mouth: oo now becomes woo, and vell becomes a crude well; a correct beginning is made, self-confidence is developed, and the foreigner approximates English pronunciation.

d. The child who cannot produce soft th, and says free birds for three birds, can learn to produce this sound by biting the tongue between the teeth and forcing the breath out at the point of contact. These simple mechanical aids when applied will suggest a host of auxiliary devices for other difficulties if teachers will carefully analyze their own organic processes in speech.

Serious Speech Defects.—The study of the more serious speech defects, stammering and stuttering, cluttering, etc., their causes, diagnosis, and remedial measures, is clearly not part of the problem of teaching children to read. These speech defects are too serious for treatment by the busy class teacher. Children so afflicted must be examined by a physician and by a person trained in the treatment of serious speech defects and must receive expert individual attention. Special “Speech Defect Classes” must be organized in large schools or in each school district where children can be helped to overcome ailments which otherwise often doom them to a life of melancholy solitude.


Bell, Alexander Graham. Mechanism of Speech. Funk and Wagnalls.

Coe and Christie. Story Hour Readers, Manual, 119-136. American Book Co.

Dresslar, F. B. School Hygiene, chap. XVIII. Macmillan Co.

Goldwasser, I. E. Method and Methods in the Teaching of English, chaps. III, IV.

Hervey and Hix. Horace Mann Readers: Daily Lesson Plans, pp. xxvii-lxiv. Longmans, Green & Co.

Jones, Dora D. The Technique of Speech. Harper Bros.

Levine, Michael. Treatment of Stuttering, Stammering and Lisping in a New York City School. Psychological Clinic, vi, No. 4, June, 1912.

Scripture, E. W. Stuttering and Lisping. The Macmillan Co.

Scripture, E. W. Elements of Experimental Phonetics. Yale Bicentennial Series, 1902.

Sweet, Henry. Primer of Phonetics. Oxford, 1890.

[22] Coe and Christie. Story Hour Readers Manual, 127. Hervey and Hix. Horace Mann Readers; Daily Lesson Plans, xlviii.

[23] Rearranged by Prof. Frederick B. Robinson.



The Problem of reading in the Intermediary Grades.—Reading in the third, fourth, fifth and six years of the elementary school course is usually a dead failure. The patient observer sees no aims in the round of lessons, no organization that is designed to achieve any specific result, and no pleasure experienced by the child. In the first two years, the method in reading, however undesirable, has system that is determined by definite and preconceived goals; in the intermediary grades reading is a transitional exercise. A selection in the class reader is announced and some child is called upon to read aloud what the others can read much more rapidly to themselves. Those who become interested in the content are penalized if they do not keep apace with the child who has been designated to plod his way through the maze of phonic difficulties and expressional problems. Those pupils who are attentive derive the dubious benefits which come from hearing various sorts of mispronunciations and verbal mutilations. In large classes some children sometimes wait two weeks before they are victimized for this oral reading. The child who reads aloud does so, not from a rational desire to communicate to his classmates an idea that is interesting to him, but rather because he must run the gauntlet of criticism from the teacher. What wonder that these oral renditions of the gems of our literature are flat and dispirited, and fail to arouse in children even a faint emotional response?

The Aims of Intermediary Reading.—Without a definite formulation of the ends that must be attained all method will prove futile. What, then, are the legitimate aims of reading in these grades?

1. The Technique of English.—The first aim of intermediary reading may be to teach language structure, to give a richer vocabulary, to offer models of composition, worthy of imitation, or to present any of the elements that make up the formal aspect of English. It is obvious that this aim subordinates reading for thought acquisition, and therefore has a limited application in oral reading. We must avoid reading with a microscope and a scalpel. No literary gem that throbs with life should be studied on the dissecting table. Only those facts of grammar, composition and rhetoric should be taken up in the reading lesson that arise as natural problems in the course of reading for thought.

2. Information.—A second aim of reading may be to acquire information of any interesting relation in life. The text may deal with ethical or patriotic themes; it may tell of progress in the sciences or industry or transportation; it may correlate with the grade work in history or geography. This informational aim is often condemned, because teachers turn their reading lessons into history or nature study lessons. This is manifestly a misapplication of a very good idea in reading.

The informational aim tends to emphasize content, to encourage much rapid silent reading and sufficient oral composition on the text. It must therefore be given a dignified place among the aims of reading.

3. The Literary Aim.—This is the most popular end in reading, because it offers content that is pleasurable, natural and elevating in its æsthetic and moral appeal. Its influence on method is marked, for now the reading lesson must seek to uncover literary beauty, to instil a love for good literary form, to explain character development, to lead children to memorize what appeals most to them, so that it becomes their permanent possession.

4. Development of the Art of Reading.—The fourth aim of reading may be to develop in each child an ability to read much in little time, to sacrifice word forms for the underlying thought. Huey’s indictment of reading in the schools is: We read too soon, too little, too slowly. “Too little” refers to the tendency toward overthoroughness, to the analysis of every sentence and every language difficulty; “too slowly” refers to the overemphasis on slow, laborious oral reading, with its sacred regard for every word and every comma.

This aim in reading should be emphasized where reading ability is not up to grade. It teaches the children to extract thought from the printed page; it teaches the teacher that too early an insistence on oral reading undermines habits of proper reading.

5. Oral Reading and Mastery of Symbols.—Another aim may prevail in a class where the children are weak in phonics and experience difficulty in recognizing words, thus being unable to give proper oral rendition. In such cases, a text should be selected that is rich in words which allow phonic analysis and synthesis. The devices that are offered for the correction of these limitations in the chapters on primary reading and phonics can be used to advantage in these grades.

Conclusion.—Each of these aims has its legitimate province and determines the method of the lesson. It is for the teacher to select the aim which is to govern any lesson or series of lessons.

The Teacher’s Preparation for the Reading Lesson.—The success of the lesson depends to a great extent on the teacher’s preparation. She must be sure that the selections are interesting and varied. If they are taken from a reader they should not follow seriatim, but should be grouped with a view toward comparisons. These selections may be appropriate for the season and approaching holidays. The teacher must decide on the governing aim and those devices of method which will attain the end sought. She must list the difficulties of phonics or interpretation that can be anticipated, and then devise means of meeting these. She must have her illustrative material, pictures, dramatizations, phonic charts, ready before the lesson begins. These matters cannot be left to the inspiration of the moment, for they are not a moment’s work.

Preparing the Class for the Lesson.—Before the selection is read by the children a threefold preparation may be necessary to insure its welcome reception.

1. The Technical or Formal Preparation.—Preparatory phonic drill: The first endeavor of the teacher must be to remove all unnecessary difficulties. On reading the selection, she feels certain that the words, cataract, drought, descend, and emancipation, which occur in the text, will be mispronounced by the children. A phonic drill is therefore devised to forestall these errors. The children are asked to read cat, ar, act, as syllables, and then as rapidly as the pointer indicates, until the sound of the word cataract becomes familiar. The bough of a tree is now written on the board, and the word bough, which is known to all, is selected. The teacher erases the b, and calls for the remaining sound ough; she now prefixes dr, and the children read drough; when the t is added, no child experiences any difficulty in pronouncing the word correctly. Emancipation, which looks formidable, is likewise syllabicated, and thus rendered simple.

The values of these phonic drills are many: (1) Children learn how to attack new words; (2) enunciation and articulation are improved; (3) the ear is made sensitive to correct sound; (4) phonograms are constantly reviewed; (5) the children acquire confidence; (6) the occurrence of mispronunciations is reduced materially. The last gain is very significant. A child who never heard the word “drought” is ready to accept any one of a number of possible sounds. The correct pronunciation is no more attractive than the incorrect ones. If these mispronunciations are not forestalled by a phonic drill, the class hears one of its members mispronounce the word. The teacher then corrects the erring child, and gives the correct pronunciation. At the end of the period some children waver between the two pronunciations that were heard; some remember only the incorrect one, and only a few remember the correct one. If the only pronunciation that the children hear is the correct one, this confusion of auditory impressions is obviated.

The meaning of new words: A second but disputed element in the technical preparation in reading is the study of new words. Some insist that all necessary new words should be explained before the actual reading is begun, in order (a) to insure thoughtful comprehension of the text, (b) to inspire a feeling of confidence in the child, and (c) to secure improved expressional reading which results from proper understanding. Because of these reasons, these teachers therefore favor a “Meaning and Use” period before every reading lesson.

But experience teaches, others argue, (a) that comprehension is not guaranteed by a knowledge of the meaning of every word in the text. The underlying thought is deeper than the sum total of the component words or phrases. (b) True meaning is determined by context, hence words unknown in a list are rich in meaning when seen in natural associations. (c) The meaning finally derived in this analytical manner is more lasting than a mere formal definition. (d) What motive will the children feel for mastering a list of words, unless they see the context first and realize that comprehension of the matter is dependent upon comprehension of the words?

Both groups of teachers take extreme attitudes. It is undoubtedly wise to let children learn to subordinate a word to the underlying thought and to derive the meaning of a given word from its context. But when the meaning of an entire sentence or paragraph is absolutely dependent upon a few words or a phrase, it is equally unwise to proceed with the context which is certain to stir no thought in children’s minds. The teacher’s personal judgment, and not devices of method, must dictate procedure in specific instructional situations.

2. The Intellectual Preparation.—It is evident that before any selection is read, those facts which concern the time, the place, and the cause of the incident must be given or found. In the story of “Atalanta’s Race,” the teacher will either have to tell the children, or lead them to find out for themselves what an important place athletics occupied in the life of the ancient Greeks. But the intellectual preparation must be short, direct to the point, and take up an inappreciable part of the reading period. Only those facts should be brought out which will help comprehension and arouse interest in the content.

3. The Emotional Preparation.—But almost all of the poetic and most of the prose selections to be read make an emotional as well as an intellectual appeal. Since emotions, like ideas, are interpreted in terms of kindred experiences, it is necessary to make children emotionally receptive for the emotional appeal of what is to be read.

How can this emotional preparation be given? The simplest means is through pictures. If the lesson is descriptive of natural scenery, a picture of a beautiful landscape may serve to put the child into an appreciative attitude. The feelings of sympathy and charity, which should be in every child’s breast as the “Poor Little Match Girl” is begun, can be stirred by a picture of the unfortunate little peddler. An appropriately selected picture can always arouse the emotion that should predominate in the reading lesson.

A second means of giving an emotional preparation is to place the child in the midst of the most characteristic situation of the story and let him live through the inevitable joys or sorrows. Before beginning the “Children’s Hour,” let the pupils imagine themselves when their own fathers come home. A few children are then called upon to tell what happens in their homes at this hour. How do their brothers and sisters express their joy at the expected arrival? What signs give evidence of their father’s eagerness to be with them? If the lesson tells of the conspiracy on board Columbus’s ship, the teacher is anxious to stir in each child an admiration for the bravery and the unflinching determination of the discoverer. Let them imagine themselves in Columbus’s place, overhearing the mutiny and the dire end planned for him, and then let them decide whether they personally would have decided to continue or have granted the sailors’ demands. The same procedure was used with excellent results in “Excelsior.” A series of review questions elicited from the children the topography of Switzerland and the severity of the snowstorms. With this picture in their minds, they were asked, “What dangers might befall you, if you started out on a journey just as such a storm was breaking out?” As the children saw themselves in the grip of Nature’s fury, they suggested, “I might lose my way,” “I might be buried in the snow,” “I might be frozen to death,” etc. These are only a few of the tragic possibilities offered by a sixth-year class. While the children’s imaginations were conjuring up added terrors of this situation, the teacher said, “Let us see what befell the boy in Longfellow’s story.” The children began the poem with hearts that beat with sympathy for the hero of “Excelsior.” If the reading selection has an emotional message every effort must be made to put the children in the most sympathetic attitude toward it.

A third suggestion for giving an emotional preparation counsels that we forestall any improper sentiment or any possible vulgar interpretation that children may evolve. A little classroom experience enables teachers to foretell what parts of a selection to omit, what incidents to pass over, and what expressions to guard against. In a seventh-year class “The Song of the Chattahoochee” roused almost continuous mirth. The beauty of the pictures, the richness of the symbolism, the vividness of the moral lesson, the charm of the music—all these were lost because “Chattahoochee” sounded suggestive to ears accustomed to the slang of the street. After the intellectual and the emotional preparation, but before the poem is read, the teacher should tell the class, “But this river that is made so real by the poet has a peculiar name, an old Indian name, ‘Chattahoochee.’ ” Many children will undoubtedly smile, but, when the name comes up in the actual reading it is not new, and does not endanger the dignity of the poet’s message.

Many a class has lost the force and the grandeur of the simple appeal for democracy in Burns’ “A Man’s a Man for A’ That,” by the coarse interpretation of the line, “The rank is but the guinea’s stamp.” The vulgar slang of the street, rather than the poet’s gospel, was uppermost in consciousness. How can we guard against such regrettable occurrences? A simple preparation may be of service. Ask the class, “What is meant by ‘the dollar is not the stamp of character’?” “How would an English child say this sentence?” The usual answer which the children give is, “The pound (£) is not the stamp of character.” “How would the same English child say this, if he thought of the next higher denomination?” A titter pervades the class, but all the humor which the word can provoke is expended and the line in question is read with the dignity that it merits. The experienced teacher realizes that these are not isolated examples, but rather that they are typical of a host of instances in the day’s work.

Possible Procedures in a Reading Lesson.—In general, the procedure in the reading recitation is governed by the aim that the teacher selects for the lesson. Among the important forms which the reading lesson may take are found the following:

1. The lesson may be read by the teacher as a model of articulation, enunciation and expression.

2. The lesson may be read aloud by various pupils and their renditions discussed and criticized by their classmates.

3. The lesson may be read silently by all the children preparatory to having its contents reproduced, discussed, and used for oral composition, or its new words and allusions explained, etc.

4. The lesson may be read silently by the entire class, and then used for comparison with selections previously read and studied.

5. The lesson may be read by the teacher to the class or by the class itself, merely as a basis for a discussion of a moral issue that is involved.

6. The lesson may be read aloud by children, because it affords excellent means of teaching children to dramatize in reading.

These forms of reading lessons are not mutually exclusive, but can be combined to give the recitation a more composite organization. Any one of these procedures, or any combination of these, may be used, provided the teacher is governed by consciously selected aims.

The Procedure of an Intensive Reading Lesson.—It remains for us to set forth the detailed organization of an intensive reading lesson that seeks to make reading a thought process, to develop a literary sense, and to help children toward accurate speech. In mere outline the steps in this intensive organization are:


1. Reading the Selection as a Whole.

2. Silent Reading.

3. Oral Reading.

4. Correction and Criticism of Children’s Reading.

5. Elaboration.

6. Oral Composition.

7. Comparison and Generalization.

8. Final Review and Summary.


These are the steps of a composite lesson; some of them may therefore be combined or omitted, according to the specific aim or aims that the teacher seeks to realize.

1. Reading the Selection as a Whole.—Assuming that the preparation has been given, the next question is, “Shall the selection be read as a whole by the children at home, or by the teacher to the class?” No actual law can be posited. But, in the main, it may be said that all poetical selections should be read to the class by the teacher before the detailed study is begun. This oral rendition gives the children the rhythm, the atmosphere and even, perhaps, the message of the poet. The analytical study of each stanza gains immeasurably in appreciative power because of the teacher’s reading. But, in the average prose selection, the dominant interest for children is the content; if it is read at home by the pupils or in class by the teacher, this story interest is satisfied, and there is no other motive that will gain for it the necessary attention. This does not mean that home reading should not be encouraged. It simply advises against the assignment of home lessons in reading in these intermediary grades. Every inducement should be given children to join the library and read extensively in their hours of leisure.

2. Silent Reading.—The selection or a logical part of it may now be assigned for silent reading. Children in lower grades may be asked to read rapidly and silently a paragraph or a stanza at a time; in higher grades, the selection may be broken into logical divisions, and each assigned for silent reading; in the highest grades the selection as a whole may be given in a single assignment.

In making an assignment for silent reading, a time limit should be set. The children should be told to read the next stanza, or, the paragraphs describing a given scene and be ready to state the essential ideas at the end of a certain number of minutes. When the time limit is reached, the signal should be given and all eyes should be raised from the books. Children should then be called on promiscuously to tell what they gleaned in the rapid, silent perusal of the allotted portion. Through explanations, marks, and praise, children should be led to feel that this silent reading is as important as the much emphasized oral renditions. G. Stanley Hall tells us: “Till children take pleasure in silent, cursive, passive reading of good literature, touching but not pressing the keys, learning the great task of catching the meaning of others’ minds undistorted, the responsibility of the school does not entirely cease.”

This silent reading, under pressure of limited time, if made a regular part of every reading lesson, brings advantages that are far-reaching and permanent. (a) It develops the art of concentration. (b) It trains the eye to be an efficient tool in thought-getting, by subordinating words and symbols to sentences. (c) It insures a thought basis for oral reading. (d) It guarantees better oral reading, for good expression is prompted by comprehension; he who seeks to read aloud well must constantly think of what, not how, to read. In a word, silent reading seeks to make reading a process of thinking. Miss Laing, in her excellent manual, tells us, “Conducting a reading lesson is conducting, controlling, shaping . . . a process of thinking in the mind of each individual in the class. . . . The author of the selection is in control of the thinking process. . . . The teacher’s value is measured by her power in helping forward this thinking process.”

3. Oral Reading.—The student of methodology in reading finds that current pedagogical thought seeks almost unanimously to discourage oral reading. “We have too much of this today,” Huey tells us. Miss Laing adds, “Oral reading should be introduced as a single phase of reading work, i. e., as a means of self-expression.” Hughes would make oral reading the exception rather than the rule.

The case against oral reading: The arguments of the opponents of oral reading reduce themselves to three: (a) Oral reading tends to undermine reading for thought. The child is made conscious of every word, of every punctuation mark, of every intonation of voice, of every enunciation, until his whole mind is monopolized by the symbols rather than the thought they represent. The habit of slow reading and of word consciousness makes impossible the development of habits of rapid, silent, thoughtful reading necessary in all later life. (b) Oral reading makes the child self-conscious of his limitations of speech, and thus further occupies the mind with symbols and their utterance, rather than with thought. (c) In all oral reading there is serious loss of time to all children who merely listen and who are forbidden to read faster than their classmate who reads to them.

The case for oral reading: On the assumption that silent reading is entirely eliminated and oral reading is the exclusive form of reading used in the classroom, the arguments listed above are true in all that they state and even imply. But such a perverted emphasis on oral reading is most unusual.

Despite the inestimable advantages of silent reading, oral reading must occupy a coördinate position with it in class teaching for many reasons. (a) The teacher must test the child’s knowledge of the symbols. In rapid, silent thought reading the child gives no evidence of what symbols he does not know. (b) Oral reading is a test of the thought acquired. By the voice and intonation the teacher knows that the child has the author’s idea. (c) Clearness and accuracy of articulation and enunciation and correct use of voice are desiderata in all oral speech. It is in oral reading that the child’s limitations in these speech elements are noted and appropriate drills planned for the following phonic lessons. (d) Words and phrases have their own worth. They add to every pupil’s expressional and interpretational vocabulary. In silent reading words and phrases may be lost in the search for the underlying thought; in the oral reading words and expressions are given their true worth. (e) But even from the point of view of thought and artistic appreciation oral reading must be given almost equal rank with silent reading in school. The dignity, the force, the cadence and the music in literary language can better be felt in oral than in silent reading. If the reader is in doubt, let him study the results of the two forms of reading when applied either to Lincoln’s Gettysburg address or to the “Song of the Chattahoochee”:

Out of the hills of Habersham,

  Down the valleys of Hall,

I hurry amain to reach the plain,

  Run the rapid and leap the fall,

Split at the rock and together again,

  Accept my bed, or narrow or wide,

And flee from folly on every side

  With a lover’s pain to attain the plain

Far from the hills of Habersham,

  Far from the valleys of Hall.

Suggestions for procedure in oral reading: a. Consciousness of an Audience. The oral reading would gain much in its appeal if the children were made to feel that they have an actual audience to whom they are telling something entertaining or instructive. The child who reads should face the class for the spirit which comes from the sight of expectant faces. Every speaker knows that the audience contributes as much to the effectiveness of his address as does his subject. Give the child, in a smaller way, the thrill of an audience. The children in their seats should often be required to shut their books and learn to listen attentively. In upper grades children should be allowed to select their own material for oral reading. That selection which appeals most to a child he should be permitted to read to his classmates. If the selection is long, two or three children who like it may divide it up among them and each read his allotted share. No effective and convincing rendition is possible when a child sees the backs of his classmates’ heads and is conscious that he is reading, not because he has something to say, but merely because his turn has come in the course of the teacher’s endeavor to form an estimate of the pupil’s reading ability.

b. No Interruptions. It is imperative that the child who reads should not be stopped to correct every error he commits. These repeated interruptions make reading for thought impossible, and cause a self-consciousness which renders every succeeding phrase more difficult to read. All corrections should be reserved for the end of the child’s assignment. If the pupil’s reading is very poor, he may be stopped,—for the benefit of the rest of the class,—in the middle of the paragraph or stanza; this is not an interruption, but a curtailment of the assignment.

c. Teacher Not to Follow in the Book. The teacher who desires to form a true estimate of a child’s clearness and accuracy of speech will find it advisable to rely solely on the auditory impressions. When she follows the child in her own book the visual impressions automatically arouse their auditory images and the teacher’s ear is adjusted for the correct sound. Reading that she judged clear and accurate while she followed the printed page might become indistinct and inaccurate when the book is laid aside. Practical experiences give evidence of this fact.

d. The Social Spirit Must Prevail. Unless the motives which prompt speech in real social intercourse are present during oral reading, most of the children’s renditions will lack enthusiasm and sincerity. The initial suggestions, viz., that each child should feel that he has an audience, that he is reading something worth telling others, that the class should occasionally listen with closed books, that children be allowed to choose the selection that they would like to read to their classmates—all these sought to offer means of promoting the social spirit in oral reading. In many classes excellent bulletin boards are maintained in connection with geography and history by encouraging children to search for appropriate clippings and articles in newspapers and magazines. Once a week the best of these articles should be read to the class by the children who found them. This is oral reading, but the motive of real life is preserved in the classroom. The shorter selections in the readers should be given out to children who will feel their responsibility for the best oral rendition of these; the best compositions of each week, good answers in written tests, and intelligent results of assigned reference reading should be read orally to the class by their respective authors. These suggestions may serve to show the teacher how varied and plentiful are the devices for preserving the social spirit in all oral reading.

How to judge oral reading: What qualities shall the teacher seek in the children’s oral reading? The simplicity of the standard suggested is explained by the fact that it is designed only for the elementary school.

1.Voice: Loud and of Proper Pitch.

The Voice. It is evident that the reading must be loud enough for all to hear. During the oral reading one constantly hears the teacher urging “Louder,” “Louder” as each child in muffled tones runs through the allotted paragraph. Much of this inaudible reading is caused by the feeling in each child that he is reading for the teacher. When the teacher approaches the child who is reciting the tone is lowered; when the teacher walks in the opposite direction the volume of voice is unconsciously increased. Give the child an audience and inspire in him the belief that he is reading something worth his classmates’ attention and in most cases the voice is regulated so that it reaches the pupils in the last row.

There is danger, as a result of constant demands for “louder reading,” that the voice will be pitched too high and become noisy, strained or harsh. With such children improvement can be achieved (1) by inviting imitation of the well-modulated voice of the teacher or of other children, (2) by frequent breathing drills, and (3) by plenty of singing exercises involving “octave twists.” Detailed suggestions will be found in such books as are listed in the bibliography at the end of the chapter on “Phonics.”

Clearness. When reading lacks clearness the fault may be found, first, in the child’s articulation. The term “articulation” has reference to the joining of sounds or syllables into words. (Artus, a joint.) The common errors of articulation may be grouped under three heads:

(a) Errors of Omission: histr’y, pome (poem), gover’ment, singin’, etc.

(b) Errors of Insertion: coste’d, hurte’d.

(c) Error of Slurring Final Letters of Words in Sentences: He wen’ away. He an’ I were there. In sounding words in a list the child would probably say went, and, but when these words are used in sentences, final t and d are slurred.

The term “enunciation” has reference to the utterance of sounds, usually consonant sounds. Thus, the person who says kingk, vhich, wery, becau(sss)e, etc., is not enunciating these sounds according to the standards of the English language.

“Pronunciation” is a more general term and refers to correct articulation, proper enunciation, the correct placing of the accent and the cadence of the language. The Frenchman whose articulation and enunciation in the word difficulty are correct is nevertheless not pronouncing the word correctly for he reads it diffìculty. So, too, the music which is characteristic of his native tongue he carries over to the English and loses the cadence and the intonations that make the music of our language.

The methods of correcting faulty articulations, enunciations, and pronunciations are explained and illustrated in the chapter on “Phonics.” The reader is therefore referred to the appropriate headings in Chapter VIII.

Expression. By expression in reading is meant the oral utterance of a thought in a manner which conveys the meaning, suggests the imagery and stirs the emotions intended by the author. Proper expression is therefore a composite result, including changing pitch, voice control, speed, rhythm, emphasis, pauses, and accuracy of pronunciation. We shall not consider “expression” from this complex viewpoint, but take it merely as it was defined—the quality in reading which conveys to the auditor the meaning, the imagery, and the emotions of another.

The teacher of elementary grades is interested in the practical problem, “How can we train children for better expression in reading?” The suggestions for attaining this end follows:

a. Know the thought. Consciousness is more motor than mental. Every changing idea, every transitory emotion, works itself out in some physical form. If the child knows the content and has caught its meaning he is assured of the first factor that makes for expression. The teacher can now see the value of the intellectual preparation before the reading, of using the text for oral composition and of preceding oral reading by silent reading; these are only means to a higher end—the acquisition and comprehension of the thought.

b. Develop self-expression. A current fallacy holds that expressional ability is developed by incessant practice in expressing the ideas of others. If a knowledge of the thought is the first condition for expression, we can readily see that only as we insist on natural and expressive speech in all oral language and in every recitation are we training children for better expression in formal oral reading.

c. Feel the situation. But mere comprehension is not enough in an emotional situation. The child must be made part of circumstance; he must lose himself in the fortunes and vicissitudes of the characters if he is to arouse the dominant feeling of the author in others. Children are naturally expressive. Listen to the spirited description that the little girl gives her friend of a new dress or the animated narrative of the lad who saw an athletic game! In the classroom this natural enthusiasm, this native expressiveness, are lost because children are made self-conscious.

How can children be kept less self-conscious and more imaginative in the formal lesson? The first means is through skillful emotional preparations. These were described in detail and must therefore be dismissed here with a mere mention. A second effective means is through dramatizations. Let children act every appropriate situation. If the reading selection is a dialogue let two children impersonate the two characters. In the sentence, “Rather startled, he hesitatingly asked, ‘Why did you send for me?’ ” a smooth and rapid reading should not be accepted. The child must read the question as it was asked by the startled character. When the child reads “The portly little Dutchman waddled along, puffing slowly and regularly at his pipe,” ask him to execute the actions portrayed. If the paragraph contains, “With puzzled expression the old man replied, ‘I hardly know why these ships are in port,’ ” the teacher must reject the rendition given with a confident air. Let the child assume the thinking attitude and the knit brow and his reading is now slow, thoughtful, and uncertain in tone. If these dramatizations are begun early and used regularly the children will gain facility in these renditions and retain their natural expressiveness in these classroom readings.

d. Encourage a social spirit in all reading lessons. In this chapter we took occasion to emphasize the fact that no spirited and sincere rendition of the text is possible if children read merely because they have been so ordered by their teacher who stands in judgment over them. Unless the child who reads to his classmates is actuated by a desire to communicate to them something that he knows they are anxious to hear, no expressive reading can be hoped for. Reading must never become a perfunctory exercise. The suggestions for fostering this social spirit are enumerated in detail in the previous treatment of this topic.[24]

e. Remove formal difficulties. Unless the child can give himself exclusively to the thought and the interpretation of the text expressive reading must suffer. It is for this reason that a formal preparation was suggested so that new and difficult words will not be encountered without a previous drill. From the very beginning children must read in sentences and make thought focal.

f. Imitation of the teacher develops expressiveness in children. The trite pedagogical maxim, “Language is an imitative acquisition,” suggests the important part that the teacher’s speech plays in developing correct expression. The teacher whose voice is not well-modulated, and whose speech is not well phrased, can hope to accomplish little in the improvement of expression in reading. No matter how real is the social spirit of the lesson or how intensely the children feel the situation, the drab tone and the monotony of the teacher’s voice will be imitated and all reading will fall into a perfunctory routine.

4. Correction of the Child’s Reading.—After a child has read orally he must receive corrections and constructive criticism. Before the teacher offers these the class must be given an opportunity to express its judgment. For this reason the outline of qualifications of good reading, that was suggested, must be kept in view of the children so that they know along what lines to criticize. The child who reads should be asked if he can correct his rendition. A child should be saved from criticism if he knows his own errors. His classmates should then be called upon to offer corrections and criticisms both favorable and unfavorable. One of the best means of keeping the class intent on the paragraph that is being read is to make each child feel that he may be called upon to correct his classmate. Care must be taken to avoid a spirit of priggishness, and of unjust criticism, and to allow the child who is criticized an opportunity to answer his critics.

When this reaction has been achieved by the class the teacher offers the necessary corrections and makes such criticism as is deemed helpful. But only on the rarest occasions should the child be called upon to re-read his assignment. If the pupil next to be called on is a poor reader or has a speech defect, the teacher should read the paragraph first so that the exceptionally poor reader has a good model to imitate. It is wise, also, to have such children read privately to the teacher in order to save them from any possible humiliation or ultra self-consciousness, and the rest of the class from listening to incorrect speech.

5. The Elaboration.—The intensive study now demands that the elements of literary appreciation be taken up. Words whose meanings should be known, beauty of diction, character delineation, plot development, striking figures, moral issues—these should be explained.

But a word of caution is necessary in all intensive study: Beware of overintensiveness. The selection that is studied must not drag; it must move forward and keep satisfying the child’s desire for new situations. It is dangerous to stop for all new words, for every touch of beautiful diction or character portrayal. Every teacher must prepare her lesson with a discriminative sense that prompts liberal eliminations. In intensive literary study we must stop only at those positive elements that promote literary insight and literary appreciation.

A second word of caution advises against a common fault of directing all questions pertaining to interpretation or rhetorical analysis to the same child who has read orally. Such a procedure victimizes one child and encourages others in their mental wanderings. All questions designed to bring to the surface the literary treasures of any text should be asked of the entire class and children should be called upon individually in some promiscuous order. Unless the self-activity of each child is properly aroused and continuously directed, the elaboration of the reading text becomes futile and deadening.

6. Oral Composition.—At every important logical pause in the selection the class should be stopped for an informal discussion of the text. The questions should be broad and liberal and designed to summarize, to elicit opinions, and to provoke judgments on the instances of the selection. The endeavor throughout should be to encourage spontaneous and enthusiastic expression. If children, in the course of their talk, glance at the page and incorporate such words and phrases as they feel will express their meaning best, no condemnatory remark should be made. A child who does this has already acquired such an appreciation of the worth of certain verbal elements as to incorporate them into his expressional vocabulary. Every intensive reading lesson must furnish opportunity for rich and interesting oral composition and must make its contribution toward the child’s expressional powers.

7. Comparisons and Generalisations.—After having decided on the appropriate reading matter for any given part of the term, the teacher should try to group the individual selections in such a way that interesting comparisons will result from having similar or opposite themes follow in succession. If the “Children’s Hour” is to be read for the first lesson the “First Snowfall” should be selected for the second. In the comparison the children can be led to see that the theme, parental love, is the same in both, but while the one is written in a major key, happy and buoyant, the other is in the minor key and reveals the plucking at the heartstrings of the poor father. To the children such a comparison makes each poem richer in associations, permanent in impression and deeper in appreciation. An examination of any good literary reader will reveal a host of opportunities for similar comparisons that allow for most interesting oral composition.

But comparisons bring to the surface not only differences but underlying likenesses which serve as the basis of all generalization. If at the end of the comparison a moral principle can be drawn, or a useful generalization elicited, it would be unwise to neglect it. But the teacher should not hesitate to omit this step if she feels that the comparisons will be forced or that the selection must be bled for a moral.

8. Final Review and Summary.—A final question, in the intensive literary study concerns itself with the re-reading of the selection. In the main, prose selections should not be re-read because their main interest for the children is their content. Much more can be done for the children by having them read new matter. But with a poem circumstances differ. There the main interest lies in the treatment of the theme, in the language and the rich imagery. After an analytical study of each stanza a final reading of the whole poem by the teacher unifies it in the minds of the children and leaves them with a rich and rhythmic impression of the poet’s message.

The final review of the content of any selection, whether prose or poetic, can be made interesting, not by exact reproduction, but by a discussion of broad comparative questions. A few of these are offered by way of illustration:

“Suggest another but equally appropriate title for this story.”

“If you were to write the story of this poem, how many paragraphs would you make?” “What would be the topic of each?”

“What stanza in this poem tells most about X’s character, most about his life?” “Prove your answer by comparing it with others.”

“Who in to-day’s lesson is the exact opposite of A in the last selection?” “Contrast the two.”

“Point out three striking qualities in the character of B.” “Tell what he does, and what he says that show these traits.”

“Can you give a temptation in your own life that is parallel to the temptation felt by B?”

Extensive Reading Lessons.—The practical teacher sees at once serious inherent limitations in the intensive reading lessons as outlined in the preceding pages. It is obvious that too limited an amount would be covered in the time allotted to reading, and consequently too little literature would be read in the school course. The degree of thoroughness prescribed would enable a teacher to call on too few children in any one period. In a class of forty most pupils would recite only once in a fortnight. The limitations of intensive reading make necessary extensive reading lessons.

Objects of Extensive Reading.—There are two ends that must be served in extensive reading, (1) more practice in reading must be provided for the children, and (2) a familiarity with a wide field of literature must be given. These two aims can be attained in extensive reading, for unlike intensive reading, its object is not thorough, sympathetic comprehension and accurate interpretation, but rather an acquaintanceship with the gems of language.

Extensive Reading Designed to Give Practice in Oral Reading.—Early in the term teachers should set aside those selections of the term’s reading which are simple and require a minimum of explanation and elaboration. These should be reserved for extensive reading and should be given to the class as frequently as the proficiency of the children seems to indicate. The preparation for the extensive reading lesson is the same as for the intensive. But in the reading itself silent reading and elaboration are usually eliminated; the children read and are corrected. At logical pauses the main trend of the selection is reviewed briefly and oral reading is again taken up. Since the quantitative side of reading and practice in oral rendition are the aims, this procedure is designed to meet them.

Extensive Reading for Familiarity With Literature.—But if the aim is to give a wider acquaintance with literature, many supplementary aids must be sought. (1) Oral reading and elaborations should be reduced and silent reading encouraged. (2) Every attempt should be made to have children read at home in the hours of leisure. Special periods should be set aside when children report to their classmates on the books they read and illustrate their talk by oral readings of the most favored parts. These reports are successful aids toward starting children to read. (3) Reading circles organized and directed by teachers produce these same results. (4) Where possible, select a long story like “Ten Boys,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Robinson Crusoe,” for serial reading by the teacher. (5) Regular periods when stories are told or read to the class can be made very suggestive if the teacher will at the end of each narration offer a list of similar stories and their authors. (6) Where each class has a class library, as in the New York City schools, the teacher should study the library record carefully and find reasons why some children do not read or why certain good books are unread. This cannot be done unless the system for keeping this record is convenient and gives all the necessary information at a glance. The following chart which is ruled on a large cardboard has proved very helpful:

Library Record Class 6B1, P. S. No. — Term Beginning February, 1913
The Books
UncleAnimalsBoys WhoAround the
The ClassTen boysTom’sI HaveBecameWorld in
CabinKnownFamous80 Days
Adams, William2/82/152/26
Brown, James2/82/15
Conroy, John2/242/8
Davis, Henry2/152/8
Ellson, Morris2/8

Enter in appropriate space date when each book is taken; Adams, Wm., read three books, taken Feb. 8, 15 and 26, respectively.

Draw colored line through date when a book is returned in good condition.


Such a record takes little time to keep, and shows at a glance what books are popular, what boys read, and how much each boy reads. Knowing these facts, the teacher can take measures to increase the popularity of a good book and to encourage a child who does not read.

Group Work in Reading.—One of the difficult problems in teaching reading in the intermediary grades is the great discrepancy in the abilities of the children in any one grade. These variations in ability are equaled only by the variations in the needs of these children. In class teaching each child is corrected only when called upon and is never given a specific set of drills designed to correct his personal shortcomings, and bring him up to grade. It becomes necessary, therefore, to group children according to their weaknesses and to give them instruction designed to meet their needs.

But individual teaching in our present class organization is impossible. Hence it becomes necessary to group children according to common failings, and then differentiate instruction accordingly. What grouping can be suggested?

Group I. Children lacking in power of word recognition.

Group II. Children lacking in power of comprehension.

Group III. Children lacking in expressive and convincing oral rendition.

Group IV. Children lacking in clearness of speech, in articulation, enunciation, etc.

For the first group the work in phonics with its analysis, blend, family words, etc., must be gone over again. The second group must be trained to listen, to read silently, to reproduce; special effort must be made to increase vocabulary and train in association of symbol and idea. For the third group all the suggestions that were made under the topic of Expression must be applied conscientiously. The discussion of Clearness in the present chapter and The Elimination of Habitual Mispronunciations in the chapter on “Phonics” will suggest the mode of procedure for the fourth group.

Only as we approximate the specific needs of each group are we raising reading to gradually higher levels in each successive grade, and successfully paving the way for the comprehension and appreciation of literary masterpieces in the last two years of the school course.


Clark, S. H. How to Read Aloud. Chicago University Publications, 1897.

Chubb, P. The Teaching of English, chaps. VII, X.

Goldwasser, I. E. Method and Methods in the Teaching of English, chap. V.

Haliburton and Smith. Teaching of Poetry in the Grades. Houghton, Mifflin Co.

Laing, Mary E. Reading: A Manual for Teachers, chaps. IV, V, VI, XII, XIII, XIV.

McMurry, Charles A. Special Method in Reading for the Grades. Macmillan Co.

Taylor, J. S. Principles and Methods of Teaching Reading, 128-162.

[24] See pages 141-142, 143.




Is Literature an Elementary School Subject?—For a long time the school was conceived as a formal institution, with a very formal subject-matter and a still more formal method. Its sole function was to give the symbols of knowledge. The mechanics of reading and the ability to attack a new combination of old letters marked the limits of reading in the elementary school. The cultural aspects of the elementary subjects were deemed far beyond the immature intellectual powers of the child. Hence literature, the art, or cultural aspect of reading, was accorded no place in the curriculum because its appreciation presupposed too great a stock of mental powers.

The busy teacher often forgets that the child comes to her with feelings, interests, and impulses, which are well ingrained and are part of childhood, if not childhood itself. These inherent desires and capacities, when properly aroused and directed, become the basis for literary appreciation. The inherent characteristics of literature are such as appeal to this native stock of childhood interests. What are these natural cravings of children that make possible the appreciation of literature? Children bring to literature:

1. A desire for a wider world, a craving for experiences outside of the realm of the immediate environment in which they live.

2. A craving for the joy which comes from using one’s imagination. The highly imaginative child loves to be transported into the realm of nowhere, where the fairies reign and the sprites defy natural laws.

3. A love for the beautiful. The child’s æsthetic sense, however crude, shows a definite craving for the artistic. Children are attracted by pictures, beautiful color and harmonious sounds. They strive for the beautiful in their decorative and constructional designs; they give evidence of a sense of rhythm in their concert recitations and songs. While their æsthetic standards must be modified and refined, they nevertheless bespeak a craving which literature can satisfy.

4. A strong inclination toward hero-worship. Every child yearns for some hero in whom he can pin his faith. While he is too young to understand the elements of character, he nevertheless sees them concrete in his heroes. The child has a sense of moral values. He knows what is good and what is bad, what to censure and what to praise in human conduct. Though the child may not be able to discuss his hero, he feels the heroism in him enough to admire him. Literature, surely, is capable of satisfying this yearning.

5. A love for the story. The child’s passion for the story is too well known to need more than passing mention; “once upon a time” is music to his ear.

6. A desire to express his impulses. The child finds a keen joy in telling as well as listening, in expressing what he feels most and loves best. Children love to engage in dramatics.

The child brings this stock of native cravings to his literary study. Literature can satisfy these, for it is itself the product of these very emotions and yearnings of the race.

The initial question, “Can literature be taught in the school?” is hence answered. But if by teaching literature we mean giving a thorough intellectual comprehension of the subject-matter, then the answer must be a decided negative. If we mean giving an “appreciation,” then the answer is decidedly affirmative, for “appreciation” is “caught, not taught.” If children came to us with no native interests this “appreciation” could not be caught. But coming as they do with a rich basis for literary appreciation, we have only to call forth what already exists. We need only apply the magic touch, and speak the “open sesame” and the child’s potentialities for literary appreciation awaken. The only condition necessary before the “open sesame” can be uttered is a stirring enthusiasm on the part of the teacher. We cannot teach others to like what we ourselves do not love. We cannot lead others to revere what we ourselves do not worship. Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm, but out of passive interest no inspiration springs.

Why Did the Masterpieces Replace the School Readers?—The introduction of the masterpieces in the school course is of recent date. A short time ago the school readers with their varied literary diet were eliminated from the last years of the school course. The reasons that led to this change are indices of the limitations of the school readers.

1. The old readers were “scrappy.” They gave snatches of everything and therefore there was lack of unity, of purpose, and of organization.

2. They gave no lasting impression. How many selections we read in the ten or twelve readers that we used throughout our own school course! Yet how vague are our recollections of these stories, incidents, characters and pictures. As we recall a masterpiece that we have read carefully by ourselves or studied in class, what a delightful contrast is there in results! How vivid is the panorama of scenes and incidents that flits before us even after this long lapse of time! Characters are still real and dramatic situations are still pregnant with tragic elements.

3. The old readers catered to the fickle interest of the child. A child’s round of desires is ever-changing. His joy in a new toy is short-lived. These old readers pandered to the temporary and evanescent interests of the child and thus tended to encourage a temperament which weakens intellect and character.

But we must not forget that in the earlier grades these readers serve a useful purpose. They have important functions which they serve well. In earlier grades it is necessary to teach the mechanics of reading and give practice in symbol interpretation in order to pave the way for the literary work which should cap the school course in reading. This these readers accomplish. Because of the child’s limited ability and experience in reading a graded course is necessary; this, too, such readers give. And, lastly, there are a number of shorter literary gems that the child should carry with him. These are given in the above mentioned readers. The old readers serve these ends well, but because they give an “old, stale, sterile, lean” and lifeless literary diet, they have been supplanted by a sustained study of the simpler masterpieces. But we must not go to the other extreme. The school course must give the child a knowledge and an appreciation of the shorter gems of the languages. If a seventh-year class studies “Evangeline” it should not fail to take, in the same term, a number of short selections of the type of “The Chambered Nautilus.” The intensive study of a masterpiece must not exclude extensive reading of shorter literary units in poetry, essay or narrative form.

Values of the Masterpiece.—But aside from the negative function of counteracting the limitations of the old readers, what are the specific values of the masterpiece? We must stop for a discussion of these values because they determine the aims of instruction and the organization of methods of teaching. The manifold values of the masterpiece may be grouped under four heads.

1. The Practical Value:

a. A study of the masterpieces introduces the child to the best that we have to offer in our literary possession.

b. The masterpiece gives the child a rich fund of knowledge of people, incidents, motives—in a word, of life; it supplements the child’s past acquisition by adding interesting side-lights on the child’s own experience. To quote, “It gives us an inventory of the heritage of the knowledge of humanity.”

c. The masterpiece humanizes the child, by giving him a picture of all of man’s relations in society, his relation in the family, among his friends, in peace, in war, in civic and social life, in religion, etc. Every phase of life is brought within the ken of the child for his immediate scrutiny. Thus he is offered “a liberation from the confining bonds of personal experience.”

2. The Study Value:

a. It develops the power for sustained interest. The content of the masterpiece grips the child and works a remarkable change in his power of attention. His ever-changing interests are arrested by a sustained story that has one series of incidents and one set of characters. Each succeeding term’s work brings greater facility in sustaining attention, and directing effort toward the same end.

b. It gives a unity of impression, which results in a lasting effect. This is due primarily to the fact that the masterpiece gives a consistent and a cumulative impression. An author’s power is always lost in the isolated selections found in readers. The force and the virility of Webster’s “Bunker Hill Oration” are dissipated in the excerpts used for readers. How monstrous is Shylock, if we read only certain selections! Yet how different is our estimate of his actions when we see them in their proper setting in the play. How abusive is King Lear as we read of him in extracts! Yet how willing are we to forgive his vituperations as the whole situation is shown in the play! The impressions that selections and extracts give are misleading, temporary and even erroneous. The impressions of the whole masterpiece are reliable and permanent, for there is a unity of view that makes for verisimilitude.

3. The Intellectual Value:

a. It trains the creative imagination. The imagination of the young child is not only active, but riotous and fantastical; it is the imagination which by a wave of the wand turns the hovel into a glittering palace of gold and crystal. But the imagination which education must develop is the more mature imagination, which creates the possible. This is the imagination which brings forth new inventions, practical reforms, and visions of improved social life. Literature can train the constructive imagination through its verbal pictures, its portrayals of all situations. There are many ways in which we can take advantage of the possibilities here offered for training the imagination. The simplest method is to encourage the child to give a pictorial or diagrammatic representation of the action or the picture contained in the text. Actual motor expression of the content is a second method of training imagination. When the child reads, “And Rip trudged along wearily, with his gun on his shoulder,” the natural tendency is to pass over the picture. Make the child “trudge along wearily” in imitation of Rip. Now the child “sees” the picture, otherwise, he could never dramatize the action. This mental imaging of the author’s picture trains the imagination in the educational sense. Another and still simpler method for directing the imagination is by verbal description. Ask the child to visualize the picture and describe the component elements and the characteristic details. The child thus again helps the mind’s power to picture the real and the possible. Training the imagination does not mean, therefore, stimulating an oversensitive and ultra active power for rich imagery.

b. The masterpiece affords opportunities for the exercise of reason and judgment in practical and worldly relations. Throughout the masterpiece the child is asked to discover the meaning of passages, to interpret statements, to judge motives, to estimate character. Thought in literature differs from the formal reasoning of verbal or quantitative relationships in grammar or arithmetic, but closely approximates the practical reasoning which confronts us daily in life. How to bring out the thought value of literature will be considered in the discussion of the method of teaching the masterpiece.

4. The Character Value:

To many teachers of English the ethical value of the masterpiece is its ultimate justification. They base their stand on the fact that the child who is introduced to this phase of literature is rapidly approaching the period of adolescence. The changes in the physical, intellectual and emotional life of the child bring an awakening maturity in outlook, in desires and tastes. It is a period when ideals are selected and conduct is beset with conflicting impulses; it is a period of maturing thought. The moralities heretofore taught on the basis of parental authority are now questioned. This truly is the period of “Sturm und Drang,” when moral guidance and inspiration are especially necessary.

Matthew Arnold tells us that there are two elements in human nature that crave especially for literature; these are a sense of the beautiful and a sense of conduct. Literature is especially fitted to answer the second as well as the first appeal for many reasons:

a. It makes concrete and personal ethical principles that are abstract and impersonal. Unselfish devotion is not an abstraction. Evangeline is a living embodiment of this virtue. Patriotism and altruism are taken out of the realm of unattainable virtues and made tangible and attainable in the living character, Brutus. We have here then a crystallization of the ideals of humanity.

b. The literary masterpiece so presents characters that it wins the child’s love for the good and its disapproval of the wrong. It appeals to an elemental sense of justice inherent in childhood.

c. It supplies “The Expulsive Power of Higher Emotions.” Our psychology tells us that no two conflicting emotions can control the mind for any time. Either one or the other obtains the mastery and thus has the upper hand. Awaken a noble desire or feeling and a baser one immediately dies. Pity will at once banish hate, confidence at once expels fear, admiration kills treachery. Ethical training would be impossible if we had to eradicate the baser nature before implanting nobler ideals. The mere fact that the presence of a lofty ideal in the mind at once precludes the existence of a meaner motive of conduct, makes ethical training possible through the inculcation of positive ideals. Literature fills the mind with the loftier sentiments and thus gives them an expulsive power over the lower ones.

d. The emotional appeal guarantees action. A formal ethical lesson without an appeal to the emotions is usually not effective. It appeals to the intellect, and brings conviction, but not action. The ultimate endeavor of ethical teaching is to influence action and change conduct. This can be achieved only as we appeal to emotions, the springs to action. The appeal of literature is intensely emotional.

e. It creates a love for reading. The masterpiece is important as a character influence, because of the permanent habits it tends to develop. Taught properly, it inculcates a desire to read, a love for the better forms of literature, and thus gives the child a permanent source of inspiration, a lifelong medium of wholesome recreation.

Conclusion.—The influence of literature is hence keen and positive, bringing an ever ready response in its appeal to the heart, for the Proverbs tell us “As in the water, face answereth face, so the heart of man, to man.” Whitman strikes the same note when he assures us,

Surely, whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her shall I follow,

As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps, anywhere around the globe.

Teaching the Masterpiece.—Now that we have seen the objects that are to be attained in the study of literary masterpieces, we must turn to a consideration of the method of teaching them. Common procedure requires three readings; first, for the story, second, for intensive study, and, third, for increased appreciation and unity of impression. The following discussion endeavors to indicate that the method of three stereotyped readings must be modified in the interest of keener and more appreciative literary study.


The Intellectual Preparation.—1. The Fact Background.—It is obvious that the children need a background of facts of time, place, customs, and contemporary life in order to understand the action of “Julius Cæsar,” of “Evangeline,” or of the “Lady of the Lake.” This background of fact must be given. But it is dangerous to seize upon this opportunity to correlate and give an extensive geography or history lesson. Detailed map work, research in history and the like are here out of place. Correlation aims to unify subjects in order to enrich a central idea. We are not engaged in enriching the child’s knowledge of geography or history, but in developing appreciation. The facts of geography are intellectual. “The Lady of the Lake” is an embodiment of the sentiment of Scotch Highland life. The facts of history are social. “Evangeline” is an emotional presentation, not a historic exposition. It is always unwise to warn the child that the true facts of geography or history are distorted in the literary work that they study. Shakespeare portrays his Cæsar; the teacher’s object must be to lead the children to feel the reality of Shakespeare’s characterization. Introduce the real Cæsar and the picture fails at once. The teacher need not be concerned about the discrepancies between Longfellow’s Acadia and the real Acadia. Longfellow refused to visit the place himself after he wrote his description. We must not destroy the picture that the poet cherished. In his “Evangeline” Longfellow did not write of the geography of Acadia, but rather of the “beauty and strength of woman’s devotion.”

2. Author’s Life.—A knowledge of the main currents of the author’s life is necessary for a thorough appreciation of the masterpiece, which is an expression of his power and personality. It is also useful information. The author should be more than a mere name. But when shall we study him? Not before the first reading! The reasons are many.

a. There is no motive in such a study. The child does not understand why, of all the books that he receives at the beginning of a term, the author of one of these should be dignified more than the others. He does not study the life of the author of his book on grammar or arithmetic. Why single out Shakespeare or Longfellow? But if the teacher insists, the child will study the facts that are given him or those that he copies from the encyclopedia. But it is an arbitrary and dispirited task. Every biography studied must be a source of inspiration. If, however, we wait until the story is read and the children are thrilled by it, each pupil feels an urgency to know the writer more intimately.

b. A writer’s life is usually not an interesting one for the child because it is a life of appreciation, of artistic ideals and their expression. The child’s hero is a man of action, whose achievements are fraught with adventure. In these biographical studies we must omit all details of genealogy, all analysis of style, and any discussion of the author’s relation to his time. This information is without the pale of the child’s interests and comprehension. Aside from the details of the author’s life we must emphasize the essentials of character that are revealed in his masterpiece. Take up Longfellow’s religious fervor, his love for the types of simple honest manhood and womanhood depicted in “Evangeline.” Every page reflects these. Bring out Whittier’s love for the poor and the downtrodden. It is perhaps best to begin this study with the question, “What kind of man would write ‘Evangeline?’ ” Let the children suggest probable traits of character and personality and then verify these. The aim throughout should be to make the name of the author bring to mind a number of strong emotions, so that the child may carry away a definite, permanent and sympathetic impression.

The Emotional Background: Why necessary?—The discussion thus far sought to emphasize that the appreciation of the masterpiece must be emotional, not intellectual. It is necessary, therefore, to make the children emotionally receptive for the author’s appeal. Frequently the poet does this himself in his prelude. “This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlocks,” strikes at once the minor strain of “Evangeline.” In the overture the musician makes this same attempt to prepare his auditors emotionally. How can we make our children emotionally receptive for the message of the literary masterpiece? Two suggestions follow:

1. Through pictures: Procure as many pictures as possible, whose themes are taken from the masterpiece; pictures representing scenery, incident, characters, etc. These are hung about the room, and nothing is said in explanation, until the intensive study brings the class to the incidents in the pictures. But in the meantime, the children are encouraged to look at these and get what they can out of them. Nothing very definite is gained, but they serve to arouse necessary sentiments and create a sympathetic atmosphere.

2. Foreshadow the probabilities of the story: A second and more positive method of arousing the proper emotional background is to foreshadow the nature and the probable trend of the story which is to be studied. This can best be done by stimulating the child’s imaginative powers in the desired direction, rather than by a direct statement. Thus, after the preliminary historical setting had been given for “Evangeline,” and the children had been told of the order to banish these simple souls from Acadia and scatter them over the continent, the teacher asked, “What tragedies might occur in carrying out such an order?” Children in a seventh-year class suggested, “A hardworking farmer would lose all his possessions,” another, “People would be homeless and penniless,” another, “Families would be broken up,” still another, “Father and mother, parents and children would be separated,” etc. The teacher then announced, “Let us turn to the tragedy Longfellow pictures.” The necessary sentiments of pity and sympathy were aroused; every child was emotionally conditioned for the story that the “murmuring pines” and the “disconsolate waves” had to tell. So, too, with Julius Cæsar. The teacher told the facts of the democratic government in Rome, of Cæsar’s rapid rise, of Pompey’s end, and then asked, “Why would a man in Cæsar’s position have enemies?” The answers were many and varied. The teacher then continued, “What would you naturally expect these enemies to do?” The obvious answer, “Fall to plotting,” was readily elicited. “Let us begin therefore the great plot against Cæsar.” With this initial preparation the children’s minds were prepared to look behind motives, to watch for the tale which had been foreshadowed.


How to Be Given.—The name, “The First Reading,” is often construed literally by teachers and becomes a reading for the story only. It is not unusual to find teachers and children reading the masterpiece alternately, omitting all comments and centering interest exclusively on the narrative. This first reading does not achieve the desired results for many reasons. First, some parts are too difficult to convey any meaning to the children. Secondly, certain portions that are purely descriptive or that serve to give local color seem devoid of interest to the pupils. Thirdly, this long reading, unrelieved by comment, brings with it a lifelessness and a listlessness that produce a wrong attitude toward the masterpiece.

The term “First Reading” must be construed liberally to mean, “Give the story in a most vivid and spirited manner for the purpose of arousing maximum enthusiasm in the term’s work.” The actual mode of conducting this “First Reading” varies therefore with each masterpiece.

a. In the “Lady of the Lake” the average seventh- or eighth-year pupil finds the language difficult, the background altogether new, the style involved, and the action not at all times clear. It is evident that the children cannot get the story from a mere reading by the teacher. It is advisable, therefore, to tell the story in the most vivid and interesting manner without having recourse to the masterpiece itself.

b. In “Julius Cæsar” the conditions are different; the language is simpler, the story is full of action, and the dialogue makes for readier comprehension. The method of conducting the first reading in this case is the direct opposite to that in “The Lady of the Lake.” After the teacher decides what scenes can readily be omitted as not being vital to the story she should read the rest of the play to the children. Since most children lack the fluency and the expressiveness necessary for proper oral rendition, the teacher must bear the full burden of this reading, realizing that effective work here develops in each child a proper attitude toward the study of the coming term.

c. In “Evangeline” both sets of conditions prevail, viz., some parts are suited for oral reading as in “Julius Cæsar,” while others are too difficult or lack interest, as in “The Lady of the Lake.” Both methods of giving the story must therefore be used in “Evangeline,” viz., alternate reading and telling. The simpler parts of this masterpiece are read, while the more difficult ones are summarized by the teacher; the unity of the story is thus maintained. By a skillful blending of reading and narration the “first reading” is completed. An illustration will make this procedure clear to the teacher.



Original Text:Teacher Reads:
In the Acadian land, on the shores of the basin of Minas,In the Acadian land, on the shores of the basin of Minas,
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-PréDistant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pré
Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastwardLay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward
Giving the village its name and pasture to flocks without number.Giving the village its name and pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessantDikes that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant
Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gatesShut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened and welcomed the sea to wander o’er the meadows.Opened and welcomed the sea to wander o’er the meadows.
West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and cornfieldsWest and south there were orchards fields of flax, and orchards and cornfields
Spreading afar and unfenced o’er the plain; and away to the northward
Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains
Seafogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic[And to the north rose the mountains with their mist-covered peaks]
Looked on the happy valley, but ne’er from their station descended.}
There in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.There in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.
Strongly built were their houses, with frames of oak and of hemlock;Strongly built were their houses, with frames of oak and of hemlock;
Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries.
Thatched were their roofs, with dormer windows; and gables projecting[Queer were their roofs, and queerer still their windows.]
Over the casement below protected and shaded the doorway.}

The Stopping Places in the First Reading.—It is evident that the teacher cannot complete the first reading in a single period. The teacher who construes this first reading to mean, “Giving the story in a manner designed to arouse maximum enthusiasm,” must carefully plan the part of the masterpiece that is to be read at each period, for a wise selection of pauses contributes much to the interest in the story. Let us assume that on the first day when this oral reading is given the teacher by skillfully alternating reading and telling covers that part of the story which deals with the village of Acadia, its people and their life, the introduction of the main characters, the signing of the wedding contract between Evangeline and Gabriel, the rumors in the village when a warship appears in the harbor, the conjectures started by the proclamation that all male dwellers in Acadia assemble in the church, the gathering of the excited villagers in the house of worship, the clanging of the shutting gates, the presence of armed guards and the reading of the royal proclamation, “Ye are banished.” The teacher then reads or tells of the confusion which broke out in the church, and of Basil shouting his defiance, “Down with the traitors, we never have sworn them allegiance, . . . Fain he would have said more but the hand of a soldier smote him.” The reading is continued, as the children sit in breathless expectation:

In the midst of this tumult of angry contention,

Lo! the door of the chancel opened, and Father Felician entered;

Raising his reverend hand, with a gesture he awed into silence

All that clamorous throng. And thus he spake to his people;

Deep were his tones and solemn. In accents measured and mournful

Spake he: . . . . .

What is this that ye do, my children? What madness has seized you?

Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you,

Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another!

Is this the fruit of my toils, of my vigils and prayers and privations?

Have you so soon forgotten all lessons of love and forgiveness?

This is the house of the Prince of Peace, and would you profane it

Thus with violent deeds and hearts overflowing with hatred?

Lo! where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you!

See! in those sorrowful eyes what meekness, and holy compassion!

Hark! how those lips still repeat the prayer, “O Father, forgive them!”

Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us,

Let us repeat it now, and say, “O Father, forgive them!”

Few were his words of rebuke, but deep in the hearts of his people

Sank they, and sobs of contrition succeeded the passionate outbreak

While they repeated his prayer, and said, “O Father, forgive them!”

The teacher then concludes, “I wonder whether the hearts of these soldiers were touched! Did they carry out the cruel order! We shall see to-morrow!” and the first day’s reading is over. We must therefore stop at a dynamic pause which produces an effect similar to the irritating “Continued in our Next!”

Cautions in the First Reading.—A word of caution may be of service in helping to heighten the effect of this first reading.

1. Be well prepared to make these shifts from reading to telling. There must be no hesitation, and no searching for simpler verbal equivalents. The book must be well marked so that the whole period moves along smoothly.

2. Do not allow the children to follow in their books. It will confuse them as the teacher constantly modifies the text. Let them learn to listen intelligently and get the maximum pleasure out of the period.

3. Do not allow the children to take their books home until the first reading is completed. The interest in the story which the teacher aroused makes them anxious to read ahead. But in their own reading they meet those difficulties which the teacher is removing temporarily, and they experience a sense of disappointment. In the intensive study of the masterpiece they will be given plenty of opportunity to do their independent reading.

“Why not merely tell the story?” the teacher may ask. The aim is, not only to give the outline of the story, but to give the atmosphere, the dominant sentiment, the music of the whole masterpiece. To merely tell the story gives a cold-blooded recital of a narrative. To give the story with the maximum original setting gives the spirit and the mood in which the masterpiece was conceived.


Divide the Masterpiece into Intensive and Extensive Reading Selections.—It is evident that the entire masterpiece cannot be taken up for intensive study. The teacher must therefore divide the entire reading matter into selections to be used for extensive or for intensive reading. Such parts as are particularly well adapted for class study and well designed to develop literary appreciation must be treated intensively. But other parts that are either very simple or that lack in ability to maintain an intense interest in immature children must be read quickly and extensively merely to preserve the unity of the masterpiece and afford an opportunity for practice in oral reading. Intensive reading means material “chewed and digested”; extensive reading is only a process of “touch and go.” Dividing the masterpiece into selections for intensive and extensive reading will give opportunities (1) for literary study, (2) for practice in reading, (3) for preserving the unity of the whole selection, and (4) for maintaining a uniform level of interest.

Assign for Study Such Parts as Will Be Read Intensively.—The selections that are to be used for intensive reading in the class should be assigned for independent study either at home or during school study periods. Children in the latter part of the school course must learn to use their dictionaries, and to learn the meaning of such expressions and allusions as are given in the footnotes or glossaries. Time and effort are thus saved and the teacher can emphasize the literary rather than the formal aspect of the text. Since the ideal in all teaching is to make the child independent of the teacher, this book work by the child is highly justifiable.

Will the Home Reading Kill Interest in Class Reading?—Many teachers fail to assign home reading because they fear that they may jeopardize the interest in class work. But if the teacher in this second reading is ready to open to the child the fund of suggestion, of thought, of beauty, of character study hidden in each page, the latter will enjoy an ever-changing panorama which he did not see in his home reading. It must also be remembered that children, like adults, delight in the repetition of a pleasant thought. How often children ask us to tell them some one of the many stories they know! They are familiar with all the details and are ever ready to correct us when we vary the story from the form that they learned. If the class readings have teaching merit, flagging interest, due to home reading, need cause the teacher no concern.

What Shall We Select for Intensive Reading?—The spirit of the literary period will be determined by the nature of the selections used for intensive study. With this end in view, the following standards are offered to guide in the selection of a text for intensive reading:

1. Is it Vital to the Masterpiece?—What is of minor importance should be omitted in intensive work.

2. Is it Complete in Itself?—It must be an incident, a description, an exposition, a scene, i. e., a literary or composition unit. Thus, in “Evangeline” the church scene, or the description of the village, or the marriage contract would constitute such a unit for intensive reading. The assignment by pages or lines as is customary in Latin recitations must not be duplicated in the teaching of English.

3. Does It Need Elaboration?—There is a danger in elaborating and expanding the obvious, in stating in cold explanation what the child not only understands but feels as a result of the author’s appeal. How flat does the teacher’s statement, “Brutus is unselfish,” sound after Brutus’s soliloquy in his garden, in which every word breathes unselfish devotion to the common welfare. To explain a sentiment that the child feels is to bring the sublime to the low level of the commonplace.

4. Has It a Central Thought?—Each part that is selected for intensive study should, as far as possible, try to bring out one central theme or principle in literary study. For example, the aim of one selection may be to teach character interpretation. Throughout the lesson the art of character portrayal is made focal. The child is shown that he can analyze the character of any person in the story by his actions, by his statements and by what others say of him. Thus in the tent scene and in the quarrel scene in “Julius Cæsar” the child is led to study Brutus’s character through his acts of consideration manifested toward Lucius and through his protests against the dubious methods of Cassius. Each act and each statement of Brutus is made to cast some light on his personality. The scene which portrays the Acadians huddled in miserable groups on the shore, on the eve of their banishment, offers rich material for a character study of Evangeline. The child notes Evangeline’s every action, hears her words of cheer and comfort to others in the face of her own impending tragedy, and listens to what the grief-stricken say about her. At the end of the study of this scene Evangeline looms up a living incarnation of Christian forbearance and unselfish devotion to others. Concentrating on one point, viz., “means of interpreting character,” gives the children a method which they can apply in their own reading; it opens their eyes and enables them to “see character” as in incidents that they would otherwise overlook.

In the same way a selection may be used, because it is an excellent model of description. Throughout the intensive reading all attention is focussed on how the picture is developed, and how the author uses color words and characteristic details to convey a vivid impression of the scene he sees in his mind’s eye. Here the child carries away a standard which enables him to appreciate a description in his own later reading. For the same reason, a part of the masterpiece may be selected, because it teaches the structure of skillful narration or because it is rich in diction. In the latter case, the governing aim is to impress upon the pupils’ minds the charm of a happy choice of words. By way of illustration may be offered the scene in which the conspirators are planning to murder Cæsar, and Brutus pleads:

“Let us be sacrificers but not butchers—

Let us kill him boldly but not wrathfully,

Let us carve him as a dish fit for the gods,

Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds——”

Or when Evangeline decides to give up her will-o’-the-wisp search, and lead a useful life as a nun, helping the distressed and the sick, Longfellow paints beautifully the scene which begins, “As when the mist from the mountain tops, . . .” When such selections are chosen for intensive reading, the beauty, the force, the elegance, the richness and suggestiveness of diction are made central to the exclusion of everything else.

There are excellent advantages in organizing intensive readings around one principle of literary appreciation: (1) The child is given a means of judging such elements when they recur in later readings. (2) A deeper and more lasting impression is almost inevitable. (3) It enables the teacher to assign home work around a specific problem. Thus the teacher assigns: “Read Scene I of Act I and see if you can tell why it is necessary to the story,” or “Read Scene II of Act I and see if you can find a suggestion as to the ending of the story,” or “See if you can describe character A.” Such an assignment encourages concentration, and indicates to the child along what lines to think in order to reach the heart of the problem.

Aims in Intensive Reading.—During the course of the oral reading teachers must seek to subordinate minor aims to higher literary values. Hence, as children are called upon successively to read the text, we must strive to attain a threefold aim: (1) Thought.—Throughout the lesson every question and every suggestion must be such as to demand maximum thought and keen discrimination on the part of the pupils. (2) Expression.—The oral rendition must give evidence that the children have grasped the thought and respond to the dominant emotional appeal. (3) Appreciation.—Not only must the child understand the thought and feel the situation, but there must result a dynamic interest in what is read so that the text becomes a source of keen pleasure to which he looks forward with anxious anticipation.

How to Attain Thought, Expression and Appreciation in Reading.—An illustration may serve to make clear the meaning of these three aims in reading and to indicate the modes of attaining them. The selection read by an eighth-year pupil was the opening of Act II, Scene I, of “Julius Cæsar.”

Rome: Brutus’s Orchard.

[Enter Brutus.]


What, Lucius! ho!—

I cannot, by the progress of the stars,

Give guess how near to day.—Lucius, I say!—

I would it were my fault to sleep so soundly.—

When, Lucius, when! Awake, I say! What, Lucius!

If the reader will render these five lines in a uniform loud and commanding voice he will have a fair reproduction of the child’s reading, which was accepted by the teacher. Had the lesson developed along the following lines, the three dominant aims would have been attained:

Teacher: Does Brutus think that Lucius is asleep?

Pupil: Yes.

Teacher: Would Brutus ask a sleeping person for the time?

Pupil: No! Brutus must have thought that Lucius was awake.

Teacher: You read the first sentence in a tone loud enough to wake Lucius. How do you think Brutus would have spoken it?

Pupil: In an ordinary inquiring tone. (Pupil now re-reads these lines.)

Teacher: What answer did Lucius give?

Pupil: None.

Teacher: How can you tell?

Pupil: Brutus repeats “Lucius, I say!”

Teacher: How would you read these three words?

Pupil: With a little impatience. (Pupil reads them thus.)

Teacher: What does Brutus evidently now discover?

Pupil: That Lucius is asleep.

Teacher: How can you tell?

Pupil: Brutus says, “I would it were my fault to sleep so soundly.”

Teacher: To whom does he say this?

Pupil: To himself.

Teacher: What error did you make in reading this line?

Pupil: I read it in a loud tone as if it were meant for Lucius. (Pupil re-reads this line in the tones of a soliloquy.)

Teacher: But Brutus must know the time. What will he do?

Pupil: He will wake Lucius.

Teacher: Read the last line so that you will surely wake Lucius!

The pupil should next be asked to re-read the entire passage and give evidence through changing expression that the changing thought, hidden before, is now clear, and that there is an appreciation of text that seemed flat and insipid.

Aids and Suggestions for Specific Difficulties.—1. The Nature of the Predominating Questions.—The method throughout must be one of development, free from long, didactic explanations. The predominating questions must be such as will elicit thought, appreciation, and expression. A lesson in which all the questions ask for meaning of words, identification of names, and for facts in footnotes is unpardonable. Why should a child know all the words and all the references to local heroes and saints in the “Lady of the Lake”? Through arduous drill, these facts can be mastered, but they rob the masterpiece of its spirit and leave a mass of uninspiring verbiage. Questions which stir thought, arouse appreciation, and prompt expression give the child a permanent trinity of literary values. Questions should be retrospective as well as prospective. In Act II, Cæsar boasts, “The Ides of March have come.” Where was this first warning given? Let the children look back and find it in the first act. In Act I, Scene II, the conversation of Brutus and Cassius is interrupted by shouts. “What is the cause for the shouting?” Let the children turn a few pages and infer the reason for the shouting. Act II, Scene I, shows Brutus reading letters of appeal and protest from the populace of Rome. “Where are we prepared for these letters?” Let the children look back and find out. Such questions afford an opportunity for many incidental reviews and serve to unify the entire masterpiece.

2. Motorize and Dramatise in Oral Reading.—Psychology teaches that every emotion is accompanied by some physical expression, and that if we assume the physical characteristics of an emotion we soon experience the emotion itself. “If you are sad and dejected,” says James, “smooth the brow, brighten the eye . . . speak in a major key, pass the genial compliment and your heart must be frigid indeed if it does not gradually thaw.” The readiest means at our command for enabling the child to enter into an emotional situation is through dramatization.

In reading Father Felician’s speech to his frantic flock, the child must assume a stooping posture and speak in “accents mournful.” How can he feel the thrill of his plea if he reads it in loud tones? In reading the quarrel scene in “Julius Cæsar,” the children must show their anger through loud and hostile tones. How can they experience Brutus’s indignation if they read it in calm, dispassionate tones? In reading the opening scene of “Julius Cæsar” the children should imitate the painful stoop of an old cobbler or the respectful tones of the old shoemaker as he answers the officer, Flavius. If the pupil who reads Flavius’s commands will assume a military posture, his voice will automatically take on a domineering tone. Unless the children enter into the physical being of the character they interpret, they cannot respond to the emotional appeal of any dramatic situation.

3. In Difficult Passages the Teacher Must Offer the Model of Oral Expression.—When there is doubt of the pupils’ ability to read a given selection with proper expression, the teacher should read it to the class before subjecting it to inevitable mutilations by the children. In all difficult oral reading the pupils should imitate the correct rendition by the teacher. The model in oral reading must be used as frequently and as liberally as in written composition.

4. Use and Misuse of the Dictionary.—Practice in the use of the dictionary should be reserved exclusively for home work and seat work; it should never be given during an oral recitation. It is a common practice for teachers to stop a reading lesson while a word is being looked up in the dictionary by a member of the class. The nervousness which results from a consciousness that the class is watching makes the child who is thus victimized take much longer than usual and in his excitement he reads off the wrong definition. The spirit and the forward movement of the whole lesson are killed for the petty interest in a word. Despite the pedagogical dictum, “Never tell what the child can find out for itself,” the teacher should give the meaning of the word and make no more ado.

This use of the dictionary in oral reading not only sacrifices the spirit of the lesson, but it (1) discourages and weakens the child’s power to get the meaning of words from the context. Thus the child reads, “My midnight orisons said o’er, a prayer with every bead of gold, I’ll turn to rest and dream no more.” “Orisons” can mean only one thing, “prayers”; so why go to the dictionary? Few words have fixed values; they derive their meaning from the company they keep. (2) A dictionary definition may often be useless. Thus Cæsar complains about flatterers, who with “low crook’d court’sies and base spaniel fawning.” The context and not the dictionary will give Cæsar’s meaning. The method of deriving meaning through the context has been called “the insidious practice of guessing at words,” but it has a place in class work coördinate with the dictionary method.

5. Treatment of Allusions.—When an allusion occurs it is unwise to call up a number of children and ask, “What is meant by ‘murmuring pines,’ ‘Druids of Eld,’ ‘The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves’?” Such a procedure merely discourages children, wastes time and retards the movement of the lesson. It is always best to begin with a series of questions designed to make clear the meaning of the allusion. If the problem in question is “Murmuring pines,” the teacher asks, “How does a person feel who murmurs? Does he feel that way when he whispers? What kind of story do these trees have to tell? Why do these trees murmur? What is the value of the word murmur as here used?” Or he may ask, “How did the old soothsayer prophesy? What is meant by a ‘person’s star’ in this sense? Hence what is the meaning of ‘The fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves’?”

It is obvious that too intensive a study of these allusions undermines interest in any lesson. The teacher must therefore be discriminative and take up only such allusions as (1) recur frequently, or (2) determine the meaning of an important incident, or (3) refer to things already learned. Examples of these are: “Ides of March,” “To move Olympus,” “Druids of Eld.” But we should dismiss from consideration such allusions as are introduced for local color and occur therefore only in this one connection. “The Feast of Lupercal” can be passed over without any more explanation than the word “Feast” suggests. To dilate on the meaning of such allusions is to sacrifice interest in literature for useless information.

6. Illustrative Material.—While the child’s imagination may be relied upon to image people, incidents and actions which reflect in part the day’s life, it is impossible for it to construct situations that are altogether new. When the background is entirely foreign to the child, illustrative aids are absolutely essential. How can city children image the beauties of the lakes, the rolling hills, the towering mountain peaks that Scott describes unless we bring to them a wide and varied collection of pictures? Teachers must watch for public recitals of these masterpieces given with the aid of stereopticon views. In addition to their illustrative value, these recitals give the children new interpretations and good models of oral reading.

Devices for Emphasizing the Meaning of the Masterpiece as a Whole.—While individual parts and selections need explanation and elaboration, attention must be given to the meaning and spirit of the masterpiece as a whole or to its larger subdivisions. What shall we do to emphasize these?

1. Study of Plot Structure.—The study of plot structure is exceedingly valuable because it gives the children a comprehensive view of the skeleton of the story and shows them the dramatic value and the relative position of each incident and each character. The elements in the study of plot structure include the following:

1. The main story.

2. The subsidiary stories. The street scene which opens the first act of “Julius Cæsar” or the scene immediately preceding the assassination of Cæsar are illustrations of subsidiary stories. The children are led to a consideration of the number of these stories, whether each is germane to the main narrative, and the dramatic value of each.

3. Where is the climax?

4. Who is the central figure around whom the story is woven?

5. Who are the characters that are necessary to the story? Why are the others brought in?

6. Classify the story. Is it a tragedy, comedy, epic? etc.

7. Why is prose or poetry used in the telling of the story?

2. Grasping and Recognizing Fundamental Themes.—A second means of emphasizing the meaning of the entire masterpiece is by constantly seeking to recognize the fundamental themes as they recur. Early in the intensive study teacher and children should decide upon the central thought in the whole story. In “Evangeline,” “The beauty and strength of woman’s devotion”; in the “Lady of the Lake,” “The free, rugged, honest life of the Scotch Highlanders,” may be mentioned as examples. The same thought can be applied in character study, for the children may be led to recognize the dominant note in each personality. Thus Brutus becomes synonymous with altruism and high-mindedness, while Cassius is made the embodiment of cunning and craftiness. When any incident that reveals the main theme of the masterpiece or a dominant trait of character is portrayed, it should be interpreted and its symbolism noted by all the children. This constant recognition of fundamental themes brings with it an element of pleasure. Just as the dominant motif is struck in music again and again, so, too, in literature, a motif of sentiment is introduced and then played upon in various keys and different strains. Encouraging children to recognize these fundamental themes as they recur gives them, again, a lasting impression, affords opportunities for natural and incidental reviews, and serves to unify the whole masterpiece.

3. Versification.—A final means of bringing out the spirit of the entire selection is through a study of versification. To introduce the children to the technicalities of poetic structure is most unwise. This is the mechanics of poetry which, for children, deadens its spirit and robs it of its very life. The versification that is taken up in the elementary school should be studied solely “in the interest of sympathetic and expressive oral reading.” Scansion must not be a scheme of notation, but a study of emphasis, rhythm and tempo. Children should be led to see that there is a relation between versification and music; that the line of music is divided into measures, while the line of poetry is divided into feet; that each measure in music has its accented note or notes and each foot has its accented syllables; that music conveys emotions just as versification intensifies the thought. Let the child realize that even though he knew no English he would nevertheless feel the minor strain of the tragedy of “Evangeline” by listening to

while the lines,

suggest at once the excitement and the speed of the chase of the “Lady of the Lake.” Elementary school children must not be burdened with complex terminology like dactylic hexameter or iambic tetrameter. For them, the sole function of versification is to give an intenser appreciation of the meaning and the message of the masterpiece.


Shall There Be a Third Reading?—Many courses of study prescribe a third reading, which is to follow the intensive study of the masterpiece. The arguments advanced for this procedure assert (1) that children experience a sense of joy when they realize their increased power of literary appreciation and interpretation; (2) that a pleasant, lasting impression is thus given; (3) that the masterpiece is unified in the minds of the pupils by this re-reading. In the method that was suggested for short literary selections this final reading was urged because it gives these advantages. But when this third reading is applied to a long masterpiece, the results are not satisfactory for many reasons:

1. The third reading takes long and causes interest to wane. Experience shows that the children exhibit an attitude of decided indifference to this reading.

2. Since this reading is not fraught with the keen delight that characterizes the first reading, the final effect upon the pupils is bad.

3. There is no need of reading the masterpiece a third time for the sake of unity. The method of alternating between intensive and extensive reading throughout the entire masterpiece serves to give the child a consistent and complete view of the entire story. The third reading usually becomes a lifeless and useless repetition which destroys what has been built up so laboriously. The teacher will find that there are other and more profitable ways of reviewing the masterpiece and having the children express its message than by an actual re-reading. We will consider some of the procedures which give better results.

Substitutes for the Third Reading.—1. Through Simple Dramatization of the Masterpiece.—An effective dramatization does not require an elaborate display of costumes, scenic setting, or auxiliaries of any kind. In an eighth-year class a simple but pleasing and suggestive recital of the “Lady of the Lake” was given in the following way: One of the children, who was master of ceremonies, stepped forward and explained that this was a story dealing with Scotch highland life, and outlined in a very few words the causes which led to the action in the story. He told of the chase in which the hunter pursued the stag until his steed sank exhausted. He continued, “The hunter grieved at this misfortune to his faithful horse, then addressed it as follows.” At this point one of the boys of the class who was responsible for this selection stepped forward and recited the hunter’s appreciation of his steed. The first boy then resumed his story, telling a brief part in his own words, until he came to the next vital part, which was recited by another pupil to whom it had been assigned. In this way the entire masterpiece was completed. The whole story was rehearsed, but the newness of the procedure sustained the interest throughout. All of the children took part and much of the masterpiece was committed to memory.

2. Through Elaborate Dramatizations.—The second means of reviewing the masterpiece is through the elaborate dramatization of the significant parts. While this work of preparing costumes and training in careful dramatic rendition is commendable, it is a question worth much consideration whether the time and effort of both teacher and pupils are commensurate with the benefits and delights which the children derive from this work. Then, too, we must notice that in most of these dramatizations only a few of the children take part and thus receive the benefits which participation in such work would naturally give. In addition, it must be observed that only those children who speak well and are unabashed in the face of an audience are usually selected for this exhibition. These elaborate dramatizations are “star performances” and hardly merit a place as class work.

3. Through Memorization and Recitation.—A good means of reviewing and applying the masterpiece is to require the children to memorize vital and striking parts. The teacher knows that memorizing literary selections has its educational results: (1) It enriches the vocabulary; (2) it develops a storehouse of beautiful expressions; (3) it gives the child a number of lofty sentiments artistically expressed; (4) it leaves the child a permanent store of literary gems which grow in beauty and richness as the mind gains in insight and appreciation. But these reasons form motive for the teacher and not for the child. Pupils memorize what is assigned from a sense of fear because of the authority which is vested in the teacher.

All memorization by the pupils should be prompted by an urgent motive. Let the children decide what parts of the masterpiece they want to memorize. The choice usually falls upon those selections which were studied intensively and appreciatively. The pupils must then be led to feel that effective dramatization of their favorite selections is impossible unless they memorize them. Call up two children and ask them to go through the scene between Brutus and Lucius. Children delight in these dramatizations but they soon realize that their dramatic presentation lacks force and conviction, because they must rely on the printed page for every word and every cue. Now there is a motive for memorizing this selection and the children set to work with a rational impulse.

4. Through Oral Compositions.—Another means of applying the subject-matter studied in the masterpiece is through frequent oral composition. The story should be seized upon as a good means for giving the children practice for talking convincingly and consecutively on a topic that they know. The story now means much to the child and he enjoys telling it. Topics like the following can be assigned for these oral discussions:

Brutus and the conspirators are in debate; the latter favor the death of Antony, but the former is opposed to unnecessary murder. Argue the wisdom of each side.

What traits in the characters of Antony and of Brutus can be inferred from their respective speeches to the Roman populace?

What titles, other than “Julius Cæsar” would you suggest for this play? Defend your suggestion!

Children should be trained to reflect a moment on the given topic and then make their statements, giving support for their contentions by citing specific evidence from the masterpiece. Progress will be slow; with many children the work will be discouraging at the beginning, but the advantages of such work, begun in the middle of the school course and continued persistently through the elementary course are far-reaching.

5. Through Ethical Lessons.—In an earlier discussion a detailed analysis of the ethical value of the masterpiece was made. Mere mention of the topic must, therefore, suffice at this point.

6. Through Examinations.—Regular written examinations are excellent means of having children review and apply the content of their literary studies, but careful attention must be given to their organization. These examinations should be made up of two distinct parts:

Part I.To test the knowledge the child has gained of the masterpiece: Questions in this part of the test should be designed to test the child’s knowledge of the work that was covered in class. As types of such questions we may submit: (1) What is the meaning of “orisons,” “low crook’d court’sies”? (2) What figure of speech in the following? (3) Who said “Friends, Romans, countrymen, . . .”? (4) What is the value of Scene I in Act I?

Part II.The test for increased power of interpretation and appreciation: The second part of the test is of a nature altogether different. As a result of repeated intensive studies it is hoped that the child will gain more than the definite specific information; that the child will grow in the power of independent interpretation and develop a standard of literary criticism. The answers to the questions in this part of the test must call for judgment, for keen analysis, and for appreciation. Allow the children to have their books open as they answer the question. Let us assume that the children have read silently the scene in which Antony asks for permission to bury Cæsar and men speak after Brutus; with the aid of their books, dictionaries, etc., the pupils are required to answer the following: Point out three traits of Antony’s character and three of Brutus’s that are revealed in this scene. Give evidence for the traits you select.

Further questions suitable for this part of the test are:

Name some practical errors that Brutus made. What light do they throw on his character?

Cæsar is killed so early in the play. Would you have called the play “Julius Cæsar”? Justify your answer or your choice of a title.

The ghost of Cæsar appears to the gentle Brutus. Had you written the play would you have made it so appear or would you have caused the ghost to appear to the crafty Cassius?

Evangeline finds Gabriel as he is dying. Would you have changed the ending in any way? Justify your answer.

But, for some inexplicable reason, this type of examination is not usual. Year in and year out the same stupid, insignificant questions are asked—questions which test the memory of petty facts or the meaning of unusual words. If the objects of intensive reading are (1) thought, (2) expression, (3) appreciation, then the examination questions must test for these ends. On examining recent test papers given by principals, superintendents, or teachers’ journals one is confronted by the following:

1. Where was the great battle between the Triumvirs and the Conspirators fought? Locate the place.

2. What is meant by the “Feast of Lupercal”?

3. From what source did Shakespeare obtain his version of “Julius Cæsar”?

4. Name the author of “Miles Standish.” What is his nationality? Name another work. About what colony is it? When do the events take place?

5. What sort of poem is “Evangeline”? What is its meter? What sections of the United States and Canada are mentioned? In what city does the last scene take place? What bay is near the village? What promontory?

6. Who is the author of the “Lady of the Lake”? Where born? What two important events took place in America at the time of his birth?

What Shall literature Give the Elementary School Graduate?—Those principals and supervisors who formulated these questions failed because they neglected to take cognizance of the vital aims that should govern the teaching of literature. They failed to realize that the study of these masterpieces must give children an acquaintanceship with the best literary forms, must develop a standard by means of which they can judge literary merit, must inculcate a love for the spirit and the message of true literature, and must develop ability for independent literary interpretation. Good teaching of literature, therefore, gives the child a permanent treasure of delightful memories and ushers him into a new world where stirring scenes and sweet voices lead him to a realization that he is living a fuller and richer life.


Carpenter, Baker and Scott. The Teaching of English, 155-187. Longmans, Green & Co.

Corson, Hiram. Aims of Literary Studies. Macmillan Co.

Goldwasser, I. E. Method and Methods in the Teaching of English, chaps. VII, VIII, IX.

Hosic, James F. The Elementary School Course in English, 42-53.

McMurry, Charles A. Special Method in English Classics. Macmillan Co.



The last three years have witnessed the development of a large number of new reading systems. These are, in the main, in harmony with the best principles of modern methodology, and achieve skilful blending of the effective devices that are characteristic of their predecessors, but they offer nothing new to existing theory or practice governing the teaching of reading to primary children. The table for classification of reading systems which is offered in Chapters V and VI still serves, therefore, as a system for classifying these new reading methods.

The Edson-Laing Readers.[25]Underlying Principle.—This reading system, formulated by Andrew W. Edson and Miss Mary E. Laing, is conceived in the endeavor to make reading the “apprehension of the thoughts and feelings expressed on a written or printed page.” The attempt is made to elevate reading above word mastery, or mere oral rendition, by concentrating on three ends, viz.: (1) Early facility in the art of reading, i. e., instantaneous recognition of words, the acquisition of the thought they convey, and the intelligent expression of this thought; (2) the formation of a reading habit; (3) the cultivation of a literary sense.

Organization of the Edson-Laing Readers.—1. Reading for Thought.—This system of reading develops its reading lessons through eight steps, which may be summed up briefly as follows:

a. Explanation of the story: Words, characters, customs and facts necessary for the comprehension of the story that is to supply the reading text are explained by the teacher, either verbally or through objective devices and pictorial representations.

b. Recitation by the teacher: The story is told and retold by the teacher until the children either know it memoriter or have developed a perfect mastery of all its parts in natural sequence. The authors are too optimistic at this point of their system, for they tell us that “children never weary of hearing the teacher repeat a story, a jingle or a simple poem.” They fail to impress the teacher with the need of the enthusiastic, animated and skilful work required to maintain children’s interest in the stories and rhymes that are to be used as reading texts in these introductory lessons.

c. Recitation by the pupil: The repetition of the story is continued until the children have mastered the details and the wording of the tale.

d. Questions by the teacher.

e. Dramatization: To make the learning of the basal story more rapid, and to sustain the interest in it, the teacher questions children on the characters, the steps in the story, and the sequence of events. The dramatization of such parts as lend themselves to this form of motor expression helps to keep interest alive and to impress the story on the minds of the children.

f. Drill on words, phrases and word-groups: With this thought background, the child is now taught to recognize words, phrases and word-groups that occur in the story. The teacher recites the sentence in which the word or phrase to be taught occurs, and then writes that word or phrase on the blackboard a number of times. All this work is done in script. It takes two or three weeks to teach the words and word-groups that occur in the first story. At the end of that period the children can recognize instantaneously the following words:


g. The story written on the board.

h. The story read by the pupils: The entire story is now read by the children from the board. Every word contained in the story is now known, and fluent, thoughtful reading is made the aim of these lessons. Books are usually not given to the pupils before the end of the first month, when a number of selections has been read.

2. The Work in Phonics.—The work in phonics is designed to develop accurate enunciation and to train the children to read new words. After a few selections have been read from the board, and the children have mastered a stock of about sixty sight words, phonics is introduced. The early work in phonics is not a preparation for the day’s reading lesson, but usually comes after it, when the words to be phonically analyzed and synthesized are fresh in the minds of the children. The usual method is followed; the words “sell,” “make,” “no,” “ran,” “king,” “fed,” etc., are made to yield the phonograms s, ell; m, ake; n, o; r, an; k, ing; etc., by a process of slow utterance. New words, e. g., “sake,” “sing,” “Nell,” are produced by phonic synthesis. In phonic work in vowels, diacritical marks are employed as aids in identifying the various sounds.

Estimate of the Edson-Laing Reading System.—(1) The reading system falls short of being a pure story method. To avoid the memorized reading heard in so many classes taught by those who are inexperienced in teaching reading to beginners, this method reverts to word recognition and word reading. Despite its emphasis on reading as a process of thought acquisition, it confines the introductory reading lessons to reading words in lists or from perception cards.

(2) The successive readers are developed around central themes; thus, the connecting thought in the First Reader is “Busy Folks”; in the Second Reader, “Lend a Hand,” kindness; in the Third Reader, “Neighbors,” social service; in the Fourth Reader, “Working Together,” coöperation and fellowship; in the Fifth Reader, opportunity. These readers are sound in purpose, but it is not clear how many of the stories contribute towards the central theme; they teach other ethical lessons more clearly than the one they are meant to emphasize.

(3) The cumulative tale is overemphasized. The authors justify the repetitive tale on the ground that it affords natural repetitions, simple gradation, an interesting round of new turns to the same story, rhythmical language, and a gradual increase in vocabulary. Nevertheless, the cumulative story must not be the sole literary diet of any reader.

(4) The content of the readers is, in the main, the traditional reading matter.

The authors tell us that one of the three distinctive features of this reading system is the absence of the usual primer, for the reading begins with a First Reader. But the blackboard work which is substituted is not of superior reading quality, for we see that it reduces itself to mere word reading and word recognition. The content of the First Reader often lacks the flexibility possessed by the text in the McCloskey Method or the “Progressive Road to Reading.” The cumulative tale in blank verse does not lend itself to as many variations as it does when in good prose. The first sentence in the first story is:

The key, the key,

To the King’s garden!

The second is:

I sell the key

To the King’s garden.

Almost no variations are possible in these constructions. Contrast this with the flexibility offered in the introductory sentence of the other methods mentioned:

A kid, a kid my father bought

For two pieces of money.

                    A kid, a kid.

This can be turned into

My father bought a kid for two pieces of money.

For two pieces of money my father bought a kid.

A kid my father bought for two pieces of money.

(5) The Manual accompanying this method is very helpful to teachers, for it is replete with sound advice. The sections dealing with “Silent Reading” and “Expression in Reading” contain suggestions of undoubted worth.

The Edson-Laing reading system, as a whole, is modern in aim and purpose, although it strays from the path in specific instances during the development of its procedure.

The Merrill Readers.[26]—1. Guiding Aim.—A reading system that will commend itself to teachers and supervisors who have strong preferences for initial reading matter that appeals to the child’s rhythmic sense is the method developed in the Merrill Readers. Its guiding aim is to develop in each child an appreciative attitude towards literature through the reading of text that has real literary value. The primer gives the child his favorite rhymes and jingles from “Mother Goose” and other old nursery books. The First Reader adds folk tales and fables to this reading content, while the Second Reader enriches it by introducing the child to favorite stories in prose, verse and dialogue. The reading matter is usually more than a slightly modified repetition of text generally found in other readers. The authors have avoided the usual danger attending an initial reading text taken from ancient rhymes and folk lore, viz., the introduction of words and expressions altogether out of the vocabulary of present speech and children’s language.

2. Introducing the Reading Lessons.—The class is given a picture which shows two children on a “see-saw.” The conversation which ensues introduces the words “see-saw,” “up,” “down,” etc. As these words occur they are put on the board. The discussion then turns to the probable exclamation of the child,

“See-Saw! See-Saw!

Here we go up and down.

See-Saw! See-Saw!”

and the children learn this part of the rhyme. The “see-saw” is then conceived as a train, the children on it as being bound for a distant place. The teacher then adds, “This is the way to . . . ? What place sounds like down?” If town is not suggested, she gives it herself. The class now repeats the entire rhyme, and every pupil knows it by heart before the end of the lesson. The jingle is now played, dramatized, recited, sung until its rhymes and its music are caught.

In the succeeding reading lessons the teacher puts selected phrases on the board, and the class learns to recognize them at sight. Lines 1 and 3 are learned during the initial conversation lesson, for “See-Saw” is put on the board over the illustration of the text. Here we go and up and down are put on the board, and the children learn them by locating them in the original rhyme. These phrases are written one under the other, and the children are practiced in recognizing them by the same kind of comparison with the original four-line jingle until they can read them at sight without aid. The individual words are now sought (1) by reference to their respective place in the phrase; (2) by comparison of a word, e. g., “down,” written on a cardboard, with the phrase in which it occurs on the board. After sufficient drill is given, these words are recognized instantly when displayed on flash cards or perception cards. Follow-up sentences are now read by the children. The words they know become a temporary reading vocabulary, and sentences not seen before are read from the board. Thus,

We go up! We go down!

We go to town.

This is the way we go up and down

can now be read. The reading must not be word recognition, but intelligent and expressive rendition of a thought. New rhymes are taught in the same way, reading vocabulary increases in the same natural processes, and reading for thought gradually develops.

3. Teaching the Mechanics of Reading.—The work in phonics is sought not as an end in itself, but purely as an aid in independent reading. More attention is given to ear training as a preliminary to phonic drills than in most methods. The Merrill Reading System starts its work in phonics with a clear recognition that in a cosmopolitan school population many children’s auditory perception of a sound is dulled by the frequency with which incorrect sound has been heard. It is for this reason that rhyming exercises are made so important a part of the work of early reading. The teacher asks, “What word sounds like Horner?” and obtains the expected answer, corner, because of the reading lessons on Mother Goose Rhymes that have preceded this formal work. Children are practiced not only in ready recall of words that rhyme with thumb, Peep, Cole, Muffett, etc., but also in reconstructing the rhymes,

He put in his thumb

And pulled out a plum


Little Bo Peep

Has lost her sheep


Old King Cole

Was a merry old soul


Little Miss Muffett

Sat on a tuffet

By a similar procedure, long lists are given by the children of words that rhyme with will, fall, fight, day, or that begin like the word cake, sun, etc. These exercises are continued until auditory perceptions are sharpened and the children have developed an elementary “feel” for similar sounds.

The technical work in phonics is an outgrowth of this ear training. To teach any initial sound like l in lake, d in day, m in man, etc., or any phonogram like ake, ay, or an, the list of words that rhyme with the specific sound is recalled and isolated by a process of comparison. The teacher calls for words that sound like lake. The class offers cake, take, make, bake, etc., because it has a clear auditory image of the sound of ake. The teacher then shows the symbol, ake, which represents the sound in question. The authors of the Merrill Readers are opposed to the prevailing method of isolating a phonogram by a process of exaggerated slowness of utterance. Thus, in most reading systems, lake is sounded as lll aaake, and the children hear an English word read as it must never be spoken in actual speech. By the method of phonic comparison described above, children are taught the sound of initial consonants; important phonograms that make common monosyllabic words; combined consonants, e. g., sh, ch, th, wh; and double consonants, like st, sp.

The vowel values are taught through natural association. Thus, assuming that the children can read


they are told that e at the end tells me to say ode, ose, ope, ine, ate, ute, ube. To teach the short vowels, children are drilled in instantaneous recognition of an, in, on, up, red. These are kept on a chart before the class all the time. The child learns the short vowel by comparing it with his standard; hence the word hen is compared with red, and is read hen; the word us is compared with up, and is read us. All words that do not follow these simple rules for long and short vowels, e. g., give, are taught as sight words. By methods similar to these that we have outlined the class learns the “helpers,” ar, ir, er, or, ier; the equivalents of long vowels, e. g., ai and ay for a, ea and ee for e, oa for o, y and ie for i; and finally the unclassified sounds of oy, oi, au, ou, aw, ow, ew, etc.

4. Estimate of the Merrill Readers.—From this brief analysis, the student readily sees that the Merrill Readers embody those principles commonly accepted as progressive and sound in modern pedagogy, and must be grouped with the thought methods in the last column of the table of reading methods. The books are attractive in print, delightful in illustration, and agreeable in content. Although no new principle of teaching reading to beginners is evolved by the Merrill Readers, the authors have produced a system sound in its conception and effective in its procedure.

Elson-Runkel Method.[27]—1. Underlying Principle.—The Elson-Runkel reading method puts itself on record in the very first sentence as aiming to be a thought content system. To the authors of this method, interesting material rich in story element is the chief factor in teaching children to read. They define reading as the art of interpreting the thought of the printed page. Stories that are complete in plot are urged as the starting point. How well the method succeeds is shown in the first story that the child learns to read:

The Cat’s Dinner
See the cat.The cat said, “Come kittens!
See the kittens.Come to the barn.”
Come, cat, come!The cat went to the barn.
Come, kittens, come!The kittens went, too.
The cat saw a bird.The cat saw a mouse.
The kittens saw it, too.The mouse saw the cat.
The bird saw the cat.The mouse ran away.
It saw the kittens, too.The cat went to the house.
The bird flew away.The kittens went, too.
We said, “Come, cat, come!
Come, kittens, come!”
We gave them milk for dinner.

The initial story and the few that follow it are written down to the child; they are artificial in form, painfully simplified, and hopelessly stilted. Not all of the primer is as far from the basic principle of the method as these introductory lessons, but the initial reading experience of the child must be fraught with pleasure—the pleasure that comes from a natural story, told in language at least on the same level as the child’s power of expression.

2. The Development of the Method.—We have considered too many methods already not to recognize the type of development here used. First, the teacher tells a longer story to offer a background rich in thought. The illustrations are useful as well as ornamental, for they are descriptive of the text. The book is amply illustrated, so that the child is given the meaning of ideas that may not be known. The purpose of the teacher’s story and the illustrations is to give each child a rational basis of imagery and experience for a true comprehension of the story in the primer.

Dramatization is the second step. By this time the children know the story and understand the allusions and the meaning of terms. The third step consists of learning to recognize words, sentences, and phonetic elements. The first time a word is seen it is taught as a sight word. Thus, if can is a sight word, the next word having the same phonetic characteristics, viz., an, will be taught in comparison with the original, and the phonogram an is thus made known. Children then read sentences after they give evidence that they have attained sufficient power with words and phrases.

The fourth step is the final step. Now the children are given the primers, and they read the summaries, a sample of which is given above.

We see then that these four steps simply repeat the procedure of so many other methods.

3. Summary of the Elson-Runkel Method.—This reading system has a complete equipment, and is rich in suggestion for varied and vigorous phonetic and word drills, profitable seatwork and correlating exercises. It is well organized; its illustrative material is not only decorative, but also instructive, for it enables the child to imagine what would otherwise be meaningless.

But the method presents certain shortcomings. To begin with, it is not a content method. Not the story that is told by the teacher, but the story that is read by the children, makes a reading system a content method. The children learn to read word by word, then by phrase recognition, and finally the sentence containing these sight words. It is synthetic in spirit and form. A story method that is really a story method is analytic. It begins with a large idea, then teaches to read the smaller ideas, the sentences, and finally the words. Another limitation is found in its content, which is traditional, often used in primers, and lacking in variety, since the majority of the selections are nature texts. Only country children have the experience for a full comprehension of such stories. Various other reading forms ought to be introduced. Finally, we must mention the incomplete treatment of phonetics, for no mention is made of ear training and methods of leading the child to make phonic analyses and syntheses. The method is thoroughly modern in conception, but not as progressive in its actual elaboration as its underlying theory would lead one to expect.

The Beacon Readers.[28]—A reading system which exceeds the demands of all formalists in reading is the method in the Beacon Readers. Its aim is “to offer a set of easy reading lessons, worked out in connection with a series of graded exercises in phonetic drill.” The purpose of these reading lessons is “to acquire the power of word getting and word mastery.” The author of this method finds that its strength lies in the fact that it follows the principles laid down by Noah Webster in his “Spelling Book.”

Two lines of work are developed synchronously: (a) exercises to develop phonic power, and (b) exercises in reading by words and sentences. The phonetic tables are developed in the traditional way through groups of words that have the same phonic characteristics. Most of the recent reading systems strive to make their work in phonics an outgrowth of words and rhymes learned while reading interesting content. The Beacon Readers, however, introduce the purely formal phase in reading by teaching phonograms and word-groups that are not even remotely related to the initial reading lessons. The work in phonics is, therefore, an independent part of the reading system, deriving no significance from the reading text and contributing nothing to the power to read new words in the successive lessons in the Primer.

The actual reading is taught by a look-and-say process, through words and sentences. The content is artificial beyond description, and is composed of an irritating round of meaningless repetitions. Page after page runs on with the following prattle: “See Mamma. See kitty. Mamma see kitty. Kitty see mamma. See kitty, mamma. My kitty. See my kitty. See my kitty, mamma. See mamma. See mamma, kitty. I have a kitty. I have a kitty, mamma. Mamma, I have a kitty.” This short verbatim quotation gives no adequate idea of the stupefying literary diet that is served to the children as a means of arousing dynamic interest in reading.

Judged by every modern standard, and subjected to the analysis that is suggested for the study of any reading system, the Beacon Readers fail. Any system of reading that is inspired by Noah Webster’s “Spelling Book” is distinctly out of harmony with the child’s interests, and is at variance with the best pedagogical practices and traditions in the teaching of reading.

The Riverside Readers.[29]—An unusual development of a reading system is found in the Riverside Readers. The authors set out to compile a series of readers that would embody such literature as would cultivate a literary sense and develop the reading habit in children. It seems that originally no specific reading system governed the early books, so that a teacher might evolve any method—word, sentence, or story—and use it to teach reading to her class. The great danger in compiling reading material for a primer or a first reader is that the content is often made to fit a specific idea or a fixed need. The text is often modified to include words that rhyme or that are built on the same phonogram. The Riverside Readers were conceived in the hope of gathering properly graded literature for the successive grades of the elementary school course. Had the original plan prevailed, an intelligent method could have been evolved to teach children to read the First Reader. The Primer is a superfluity, which needlessly introduces elements of weakness. The content of the First Reader is a skilful compilation of nursery rhymes, nature stories, cumulative tales, and simple poetry. The Primer, however, descends to the oft-condemned round of

One little egg

Two little eggs

Three little eggs

I see three little eggs

    Page 3



Hop, little bird,

Hop, little bird,

Hop to me.

    Page 4


One little bird

Two little birds

Three little birds

I see three little birds

    Page 5



Fly, little bird,

Fly, little bird,

Fly to me.

    Page 6



Sing, little bird,

Sing, little bird,

Sing to me.

    Page 7

The system suggested for teaching children to read is a combination of word and phrase method so often used. It has been fully described in the discussions of other methods. The work in phonics follows traditional lines.

The series of readers, excluding the Primer, is interesting, rich in varied literary content, artistic in illustration, and developed around rational centers and with due regard to gradation. These are qualities which commend them to teachers and which explain gratifying response by pupils. “How to Teach Reading,” by Frances Jenkins, is a helpful manual, designed to accompany the Riverside Readers.

The See and Say Series.[30]—1. Basic Aim.—A reading system which has the courage to formulate a severely formal method is the See and Say Series. Its underlying purpose is to enable children to master form and sound of words. It holds that the basis of all reading is independent recognition of new words. To attain this end, all energies are bent on teaching children the sounds of letters as the key to accurate pronunciation and spelling. The method is thoroughly formal, devoid of all content, and synthetic in spirit and development.

2. The Development of the Method.—Each sound in the English language is represented by a picture that tends to suggest it. Children come to school able to produce certain mimetic sounds: they moo like the cow, choo! choo! like the engine, and manifest other onomatopoetic abilities. The children are taught to associate the sound of m, for example, with a story and a picture of a mooing cow, with the first letter of moon, and with the symbol m. Thus, first, the child sees a picture of a cow looking longingly at the calves on the other side of a stone fence. The teacher tells them an appropriate story suggested by this picture. Second, the child associates the picture with the sound of m. Third, the sound is now associated with the letter. Fourth, drill is given on this phonic element, and children are led to realize that other words begin with the same sound. The lesson is capped by a “Key Sentence.” The children now recite, “The cow says m, and m is the first letter of moon.” In similar manner, other lessons are ended by teaching children such key sentences as: “When a baby wants an apple he says a, and a is the first sound of apple.” “When the popcorn sticks in the boy’s throat he says c [hard c], and c is the first sound of cat.” “Mother says sh when baby is asleep, and sh is the first sound of shell.”

3. The Reading Content of the See and Say Series.—One searches in vain for literary content in this reading system. In the Manual to Book I we are told that Book I is a picture book, and teaches the alphabet and the ordinary sounds of letters; “Book II reviews and summarizes the lessons of Book I and introduces the long vowels, silent e, and the third sound of a, e, i, o and u”; “in Book III, definite steps are taken to fix right habits in spelling and to use effectively to this end all that has been taught in Book I and Book II. . . . All lessons which do not present a new sound provide drill upon sounds already learned.” The Manuals, which outline in detail the mode of teaching every lesson in all the books, state the formal aims of each reading lesson. Typical of these aims are the following: “To teach short sound of u, to give added drill on the phonogram ing and final s.” Page 27 of Book I presents the following appearance:

Page 137, which almost ends the Second Reader, has in store for the child the rare delight which comes from the perusal of


These pages are typical of the mechanical word reading and the fetish of sound mastery that permeates every line of this reading system.

4. The Phonics.—Despite the fact that phonics is the beginning and the end of this method, it contributes nothing new or helpful in this important part of early reading. The procedures suggested are those found in the earliest methods. It perpetuates the traditional blunders in the teaching of phonics; it forces children to read A-lice for Alice, in order to isolate the letter a; it is devoid of all ear training; it synthesizes phonograms into groups of letters that are either no words at all or very unusual words; it makes the mistakes found in the methods of young teachers who are slowly learning the error of their ways at their pupils’ expense. Most of its devices were used by Ickelsamer in 1534, and by Basedow in his “Philanthropinum,” in the early part of the nineteenth century.

5. General Estimate of the See and Say Series.—From this rapid survey we see that this reading method is arrogantly formal and boastful of its utter neglect of literary content. If the primary law of teaching is to begin any subject, “at the point of contact,” in the lives and interests of our pupils, this reading system falls far from the ideal. It is utterly devoid of motive and sympathy for child life. Not a story nor a rhyme enlivens its dull phonic work. These readers and their elaborate manuals formulate a complicated spelling method rather than a reading system. Unless the phonic elements can be made the natural outgrowths of pleasing and literary content, reading is not a process of thought acquisition, intelligent reading habits are not developed, and the child’s interest in reading will be crushed.

Story Hour Readers.[31]Governing Aim.—A reading system that is attracting much attention today among primary teachers is the Story Hour Readers. This system is conceived in the endeavor “to establish a reading habit early in life” through reading matter of charm and traditional literary worth. Much use is made of Mother Goose rhymes and folk tales, which are presented in a manner designed to appeal to the child’s love for action and dramatization. But the jingle which precedes most of the reading lessons in the first and second books is designed to introduce the work in phonetics. As is the case in so many of the new reading systems, the strength of the Story Hour method lies in its eclectic character.

The Procedure in the Method.—1. Telling the Story.—The teacher tells the first story to her class, using the words of the text in the book. The story is carefully prepared so that the teacher knows what points to emphasize, what parts to dramatize, and where to call to her aid the devices that make story-telling effective.

2. The Dramatisation.—Through dramatizations, games, rote songs, and repetitions of the jingle, the memorization of the introductory text is made incidental. The children focus their interest in the motor expressions, in the various forms of play, and in the song, but the set text is, nevertheless, effectively memorized.

3. Blackboard Work.—The children are now ready to read their story from the blackboard. The teacher prints it for them, so that the mastery of the visual symbol may lead directly to reading from the book. The teacher asks questions which require for their answer the reading of one line of the Mother Goose rhyme. The teacher’s blackboard work shows the following:

Little Bo Peep lost her sheep,

  She looked and looked

but could not find them.

  Then she went

to Little Jack Horner.

“Please, Little Jack Horner,

help me find my sheep!”

  Little Jack Horner

sat in a corner.

The teacher asks, “What did Little Bo Peep lose?” and the child reads the first line, “Little Bo Peep lost her sheep.” This procedure is followed to teach the class to read the entire lesson. In the children’s reading, especial endeavor is made to lead them to read each sentence as a unit, to emphasize the important words and word-groups, to help them read the entire text as a larger unit.

4. The Analysis.—This reading method does not seek to give children a mastery of all the words in the first lesson before going to the second, for such thoroughness is usually fatal. The child is taught only such words as represent real ideas, or as will readily associate themselves in the children’s minds. To restrain the class from reading new matter until every word is known kills interest in the story and in the art of reading itself. The analysis consists of three parts, viz: (a) recognition of phrases, (b) recognition of certain words, and (c) phonetics.

(a) Recognition of phrases: Children are taught to recognize word-groups like looked and looked, then she went before learning to recognize a single word. The teacher asks questions which require for the answer the reading of a group of words in the sentence. Thus, the class is asked, “What did Little Bo Peep do?” and the children answer “looked and looked,” and are taught the group of words that expresses this idea.

(b) Recognition of words: The power to recognize individual words is developed by using the known phrases and expressions as a basis. The usual method of accomplishing this end is followed, but this method offers a series of devices that may be used in almost any content system. Chief among these we must mention:

1. A race. Three children hunt in three different columns for a given word, to see who can find it and pronounce it first.

LittleBo Peeplost
Bo Peepsheepsheep
sheepLittleBo Peep

2. The words are numbered. The teacher calls a number, and the child reads the appropriate word, or she gives the word and the pupil tells its number.

3. Words found are underscored in colored crayon.

4. Words called for by the teacher are erased by the pupil.

These exercises can be increased almost without end. They are given until the words selected can be recognized instantly by the pupils.

(c) Phonetics: From the very beginning, this reading system seeks to give each pupil ability to recognize new words. Work in formal phonetics begins early, and is initiated by systematic training for auditory acuity. Ear training is given by various devices that are very rational and effective. Many of these, especially those that emphasize rhyming, grouping similar initial and final sounds, have already been described.

After enough ear training has been given, words that are known as sight words are subjected to phonetic analysis by comparing them to other words that have the same initial and final sounds. Thus, find recalls fly, found, hence find teaches f; call recalls ball, tall, hall, hence call teaches all. The usual analysis of find into f and ind, call into c and all, is not tolerated, for in actual speech no such artificial separation is tolerated. This phonetic step is concluded by the constructive step, the blend, in which new words are read phonetically by a synthesis of known phonograms. Throughout this phase of the work, phonics is sought through the child’s inherent sense of rhyme and rhythm.

5. Reading the Story as a Whole from the Book.—The book is now given to the children, and with the aid of large printed charts they read the story from the page. Drill is given in recognizing phrases and words as a preparation for the silent and then the oral reading of the selection as a whole.

Useful Seat Work and Correlation.—The Story Hour Readers have a full complement of auxiliary equipment. Various materials for useful busy work and for drills are provided. This variety includes tracing, cutting, and mounting pictures of sheep, etc. Freehand drawing, imaginary drawing, matching words on small cards with forms on the blackboard are emphasized. Perception cards, objects, pictures, outline forms of animals and people, charts, etc., are among the elaborate equipment designed to afford natural drill and reduce knowledge of symbols to habit. In addition to this equipment, the method provides for a rich variety of correlations with nature study, manual training, music, mimetic and occupational exercises, play and drawing.

General Estimate.—The books that are put into the hands of the children are artistic in illustration and design, and offer literary content more varied than in the average reading system. The progress that is made is rapid, but graded so that each step gives the child a thorough foundation on which he builds growing knowledge and increasing power. The method owes much of its effectiveness to its skilful inclusion of the worth-while principles and devices of the best systems of primary reading, and to its rational balance between the literary and the mechanical elements that make up a reading method for the introductory school years.

The Natural Method Readers.[32]A Typical Story Method.—A reading method possessed of the same aims as the Story Hour Method is the Natural Method Readers by Hannah T. McManus and John H. Haaren. It, too, endeavors to develop the art of reading, of extracting thought from the printed page by presenting a content exclusively of nursery rhymes. These are divided into two groups: (1) Those that are more complex in content, and possessed of a greater number of new words, and must, therefore, be taken up on a number of pages; (2) those that are so simple as to require no such extended treatment. Thus the child begins its reading experience by memorizing.

A, B, C,

Tumble Down D

The cat is in the cupboard

And can’t see me.

This is followed by Jack Horner, Little Miss Muffett, and the round of familiar people of Mother Goose’s family. While these nursery rhymes form agreeable and rhythmic content, their effectiveness is reduced by making them the sole elements in the early literary text to the exclusion of folk tales and cumulative stories.

The Development of the Method.—The development of the method of teaching children to read follows the familiar sequence, viz.:

1.Recitation by the teacher;
2.Repetition by the pupils;
3.Dramatization by the pupils;
4.Study of the words of the lesson;
5.Reading from the blackboard or from the books after three or four nursery rhymes have been read from the board.

The Teaching of Phonics.—The work in phonics follows lines equally familiar to those who know the commonly accepted development of the mechanics of reading. The authors prescribe work in phonics that is an outgrowth of the stock of reading words which the children possess. This advice is followed by the usual round of “slow pronunciation, analysis, recognition of separate phonograms, combination or synthesis, and comparison with sounds as they occur in the words.”

General Estimate of Natural Method Readers.—The faults of this reading system lie more in its omissions than in its commissions. It lacks variety of reading material, and its mode of giving reviews must be criticized as content weakness. The authors have inserted these reviews at frequent intervals, and have endeavored to evolve a story form for them. But the reviews that are actually given are a series of disjointed sentences, devoid of sequence and story element, and usually are in marked contrast to the pleasant and rhythmic jingles that constitute the remainder of the reading text. Teachers find the reading system lacking in forms of profitable busy work that must be given to one group while the teacher gives herself to another set of pupils. This method does not point out to the inexperienced teacher the rich correlations that must be established with music, games, drawings, nature study and manual work throughout the teaching of early reading. Nor are there suggested devices for securing expressive renditions, for developing power to associate thought and symbol, or for conducting exercises in silent reading. No mention is made of the necessary ear training that must precede the work in phonics. Judged as a series of readers, rather than as a reading system, most of the limitations are beside the mark. A system of readers assumes that the teacher knows the modus operandi, and needs no prescriptions and devices dealing with these problems in teaching beginners to read. There is nothing in the Natural Method Reader to exclude the most approved and the most effective practices. But teachers inexperienced in teaching primary reading are usually in need of all these devices and exercises. The illustrations in the books have artistic quality, and the mechanical elements of this system are, in the main, well planned and carefully executed. In the hands of a teacher experienced in first year reading work and familiar with the devices of her craft, this system promises effective results.

[25] Edson and Laing. The Edson and Laing Readers. Benj. H. Sanborn & Co., 1913.

[26] Franklin B. Dyer and Mary J. Brady. The Merrill Readers. Chas. E. Merrill & Co., N. Y., 1915.

[27] Wm. H. Elson and Laura E. Runkel. The Elson-Runkel Primer. Scott Foresman & Co., 1914.

[28] James H. Fassett. The Beacon Readers. Ginn & Co., 1912, 1914.

[29] Van Sickle, Seegmiller and Jenkins. The Riverside Readers. Houghton, Mifflin Co., 1911 and 1913.

[30] Sarah Louise Arnold, Elizabeth C. Bonkey and E. F. Southworth. See and Say Series. Ginn & Co., 1915.

[31] Coe and Christie. Story Hour Readers. American Book Co., 1913.

[32] McManus and Haaren. The Natural Method Readers, Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1914.


Adolescents and literary study, 167

Aims, of reading, 1

  of intensive reading, 186

  of intermediary reading, 126

Aldine Method, 66

Allusions in literary study, 192

Alphabetic Method, 37

Animal stories, 84

Apperception in reading, 129, 174

  See also Preparation of class

Arnold, Sarah L., 6

Articulation, 145

Association in reading, 46, 53

Atonics, 104

Author’s life in literary study, 171


Balliet, Thomas M., 26

Basal stories,

  in Aldine Method, 66

  in Culture Primers, 76

  in McCloskey Method, 51

  in Progressive Road, 76

Basedow, 39

Bell, Alexander Graham, 123

Blackboard reading, 49

Books, hygienic requirements for, 13

  proper paper in, 15

  proper size of, 15

  standardization of, 16

Bryant, Sarah Cone, 100

Buno, 39


Carpenter, Baker and Scott, 6, 35, 57, 100, 205

Character interpretation, 184

Character value of masterpieces, 167

Chubb, Percival, 35, 100, 158

Clark, S. H., 158

Class libraries, 156

Clearness in reading, 145

Coe and Christie, 81, 123

Cohen, H., 16

Colby, J. R., 6

Comenius, 49

Comparisons in reading, 152

Consonants, 104

Content, in phonic work, 114

  of primers, 83

Content aim in reading, 32

Correction of reading, 149

Corson, Hiram, 205

Criticism of class reading, 149

Culture epoch and postponement of reading, 29

Culture Primers, 76

Cumulative tales, 85

  See also McCloskey Method; Progressive Road Method


Davis and Julien, 70

Dearborn, W. F., 26

Dewey, John, 27, 35

Diacritical marks, 108

Dictionary, 192

Dramatization, 147, 189, 198, 199

  See also Primary methods of reading

Dresslar, T. B., 16, 123


Elaboration in reading, 150

Eliot, Charles W., 3

Emotional preparation, in masterpiece, 172

  in reading lesson, 132

Enunciation, 145

Ethical value of masterpiece, 167

Eye fatigue, 11

Eye movement in reading, 7

Eye sweeps in reading, 7

Examination for power, 201, 202

Expression, 146

Extensive reading, 154


Fables, 84

Fairy tales, 84

Farnham, 48

Farnham Method, 48

Finger-play method, 70

First reading in masterpiece, 174

Formal aim in reading, 32


Generalization in reading, 152

Goldwasser, I. E., 6, 57, 100, 124, 158, 205

Gordon, Emma K., Method, 39, 60

Group teaching, in phonics, 115

  in reading, 156


Haliburton and Smith, 158

Hall, G. Stanley, 4, 57, 138

Hervey and Hix, 73, 124

Horace Mann system, 73

Hosic, James F., 35, 100, 205

Huey, Ed. B., 6, 16, 26, 35, 57, 81, 100

  on oral reading, 139

  on rate in reading, 19

  on reading method, 50

  on when to begin to read, 27

Hughes, James L., 81, 139

Hygienic reasoning for postponing reading, 27

Hygienic requirements for books, 13


Ickelsamer and phonic drill, 39

Illustrations in readers, 86

Illustrative material in literary study, 193

Imagination, education of, 166

Imitation, 120

Inner speech in reading, 17

Intellectual value of masterpiece, 165

Intensive reading lessons, procedure in, 136

Intensive study of masterpiece, 181

  aims of, 186

  division of masterpiece into selections for, 181

  study of selection for, 182

  what to choose in, 183


Jacotot, 49

Jansenites, 39

Jones, Dora D., 124


Kenyon-Warner, Ellen, 76


Laing, Mary E., 6, 26, 35, 57, 81, 100, 158

  on oral reading, 139

  on silent reading, 138

  on when to begin, 27

Language lessons in reading, 54, 77

Levine, Michael, 124

Light, 13

Lines, length of, 15

Lip reading, 17

Literature, place of, in elementary school, 3, 159


McClintock, P. L., 6

McCloskey Method, 51

McManus and Haaren, 81

McMurry, Charles A., 57, 81, 158, 205

  on reading method, 50

  on when to begin reading, 27

Masterpiece, place of, in school, 161

Masterpiece values, 164

  See also Intensive study of

Mechanical aids in speech correction, 121

Memorization and recitation, 199

Messmer, on inner speech, 17

Mispronunciations, habitual causes of, 117

  remedial measures for, 119

Models of oral expression, 150, 191

Moralization in story-telling, 99

Moses, Montrose J., 100

Motivation in phonics, 113, 120

Mount, Christiana, 62, 81


Natural Method, 76

Natural Method Readers, 81

Nature stories, 84

New Education Method, 62

New England Primer, 82

New words in reading lessons, 130

Nursery rhymes, 83


Optic fatigue, 11

Organs of speech, description of, 103

  undue emphasis on, in phonic work, 115

Oral composition, in literature, 200

  in reading lesson, 151

Oral reading, clearness in, 145

  in intermediary grades, 139

  overemphasis of, 23

  place of, in school courses, 2

  processes in, 7

  standard of judging, 142

O’Shea, M. V., 20, 26


Paper, proper kind of, for books, 15

Partridge, E. N. and G. E., 100

Pedagogical consideration for postponing reading, 30

Pestalozzi, 39

Phonic Method, 38, 41

Phonics, in Aldine Method, 69

  definitions of, 103

  in Finger-play Method, 71

  in Gordon Method, 61

  in Horace Mann Method, 75

  in McCloskey Method, 54

  in New Education Method, 62

  objects of, 102

  in Pollard Method, 62

  in preparation for reading lesson, 129

  in Progressive Road Method, 77

  in Summers Method, 65

  in Ward Method, 45

Phonograms, analysis of modes of, 111

  blends in, 112, 113

  gradation of, 109

  teaching of, 110

Phrasing, 147

  See also Dramatization; Primary methods of reading

Plot structure in masterpiece, 194

Pollard Synthetic Method, 61

Preparation, of class for reading, 129

  for reading lesson, 128

  by teachers for phonic lesson, 110

Primary reading, Aldine Method in, 66

  Alphabetic Method in, 37

  essentials of a modern method in, 43

  Farnham Method in, 48

  Finger-play Method in, 70

  Gordon Method in, 60

  Horace Mann Method in, 73

  how to judge a method of, 78-80

  McCloskey Method in, 51

  Natural Method in, 81

  New Education Method in, 62

  Phonetic Method in, 41

  Phonic Method in, 38

  Pollard Method in, 61

  Progressive Road Method of, 75

  Story Hour Method in, 81

  Summers Method in, 63

  Ward Method in, 44

Primer, content of, 83

  development of, 82

  good characteristics of, 82

  illustrations for, 86

  mechanics of, 87

Print or script at beginning, 46, 53

Progressive Road to Reading, 75

Pronunciation, definition of, 145

  correction of, 117, 119

Psychological considerations for postponing reading, 27


Quantz, on rate in reading, 20

Questions, in intensive reading, 189

  in tests, 203


Rate in reading, experiments in, 19

  relation of, to thought, 18

  significance of, for teaching, 22

Readers, displacement of, in upper grades, 162

  illustrations for, 86

  See also Primary methods

Reading, aims of, 32, 126, 186

  in teaching of, 1

  apperception in, 129, 174

  association in, 46, 53

  blackboard in, 49

  content aim of, 32

  correction in, 149

  criticism of, 149

  derivation of word in, 1

  dramatization in, 147, 189, 198, 199

  elaboration in, 150

  emotional preparation in, 132, 172

  expression in, 146, 150

  extensive, 154

  eye movement in, 7

  formal aims of, 32

  generalization in, 152

  inner speech in, 17

  intensive, 136, 181

  intermediary, 125

  lip movement in, 17

  literary appreciation in, 3

  optic fatigue in, 11

  oral vs. silent, 139

  place of oral. See Oral reading

  preparation of class for, 128

  preparation of teacher for, 129

  primary methods of. See Primary reading

  primers. See Primer

  print or script at beginning, 46, 53

  problems involved, 4

  procedure of, in intermediary grades, 135

  to pupils, 89

  rate and thought in, 18

  silent, 137

  speed in, 19

  thought acquisition in, 1, 2

  use of selection as a whole in, 136

  when to begin, 27

Reading lists. See Bibliography, Chap. VII

Reeder, R. R., 100

Re-reading of lesson, 153

Re-reading of pupils’ assignments, 150

Rousseau, 39


St. John, Ed. P., 101

Scripture, E. W., 124

Second reading of masterpiece. See Intensive study

Sentence Method, 36, 48, 50, 66, 70, 73

Shaw, Ed. R., 16

Shimer, Ettinger and Burchill, 75

Silent reading, 137

Social considerations for postponing reading, 29

Social spirit in reading lesson, 141, 143

Sonnets, 104

Sounds classified, 104

Spalding and Bryce, 66

Speech, analysis of, 103

  defects in, 123

  organs of, 103

Spelling in reading methods, 47

Spencer, 22

Standard for judging oral reading, 142

Standardization of books, 16

Stories to tell, 100

Story Method, 36, 51, 66, 75

Story Hour Readers, 81, 123

Story-telling, 92

Subject matter of readers, 82

Subtonics, 104

Summers Method, 63

Surds, 105

Sweet, Henry, 124


Taylor, J. S., 16, 26, 35, 57, 158

Teachers’ College Record, 57

Third reading of masterpiece, misapplication of, 197

  substitutes for, 198

Thought acquisition in reading, 1

Transition from print to script and vice versa, 45, 53

Type, size of, 13


Versification, 196

Voice, 144

Vostrovsky, Clara, 101

Vowels, 104, 106


Ward, E. G., 44

Ward Rational Method, 44

Word Method, 36, 44, 61

Writing in reading methods, 47, 56


Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple spellings occur, majority use has been employed.

Punctuation has been maintained except where obvious printer errors occur.

A cover was created for this eBook and is placed in the public domain.


[The end of Teaching Children to Read by Paul Klapper]