Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Teaching Reading - A few quotes

I got lost in google books - again - looking at reading primers.  My middle child is about ready to take the leap into reading so I am thinking about what I should do this time.  My poor oldest child had about every method tried on him.  I am leaning towards Barefoot Ragamuffins Reading Lessons Through Literature which uses the Elson readers.  So, that's how it all started.

After looking through the Elson readers I can see why she chose them.  Some of them even have "teacher's guides" available.  Which are always interesting to read. In part, because at this time teaching reading meant not only teaching silent reading to help children grasp ideas but was like teaching speech because it was critical to know how to read aloud well.  Remember, this is prior to "talkies" so if you wanted entertainment typically you read aloud - which meant that elocution and expression in your reading was important.  You needed to be able to read with understanding and with feeling.  I am not sure that reading aloud for expression and feeling is done outside of drama classes today.

Here are a few quotes from the introduction to Elson Grammar School Reader Book 3 (January 1910):

To love good literature, to find pleasure in reading it and to gain power to choose it with discrimination are the supreme ends to be attained by the reading lesson.  for this reason, some selections should be read many times for the pleasure they give the children.  In music the teacher sometimes calls for expressions of preference among songs: "What song shall we sing, children?"  So in reading, "What selection shall we read?" is a good question for the teacher to ask frequently.  Thus children come to make familiar friends of some of the stories and poems, and find genuine enjoyment in reading these again and again. 
Quiller Couch says, " I believe that if, for one half hour a day, a teacher were to read good poetry aloud with his pupils, not fretting them with comments, not harrying them with too frequent questions, but doing his best by voice and manner to hold their attention, and encourage them to read in their turn, pausing only at some alien beauty or some unusual difficulty, above all giving the poetry time to sink in - I believe thoroughly he would find himself rewarded beyond all calculations.  For a child's mind is a wonderful worker if only we trust it. A child's imagination is as susceptible of improvement by exercise as his judgement or memory. Can we not so persuade our schoolmasters that our children may hear this music more clearly and more constantly than we?"  (italics in original)
The reading lesson should primarily be a thinking lesson, and every shade of thought should be carefully distinguished, no matter how long a time may be consumed.  The habit of hurrying over the page, which is so prevalent, is clearly an outgrowth of schoolroom methods. 
Lastly, it must be urged that we give more time to this work.  The imagination cannot be developed in a week or a month; and unless there is imagination there can be no sympathy.  Make the class follow attentively and get them to give back the picture, as far as possible, in minutest detail.  Do this again and again and improvement must follow. 
The best way to learn to love good literature it to study only good literature, and to study it again, again and again.  What is truly great art cannot be apprehended at a glance, but requires time for its fullest appreciation.  
I think that about sums it up. Apparently, Elson is best known for the Dick and Jane books.  I am not sure how he fell so far.


  1. Absolutely love the Quiller-Couch paragraph. I was just thinking the other day how important it is for all of us to read poetry daily.

  2. Interesting what you said about Elson. Dick & Jane was big in Scotland when I was at school from what I recall