Valuable Reading Programs from the Past

I have examined each of these programs for effectiveness - and freedom from dyslexia producing attributes.

1. The 1909 Edition of McGuffey's Eclectic Primer Here is a link to McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book (1879). This, by the way, is the one that my ancestors studied in their one room school house. You can purchase a beautiful hardback copy at: McGuffey's Spelling Book. Here is Henry Vail's 1911 History of the McGuffey Readers. Here is Alexander McGuffey's 1865 New Eclectic Spelling Book. This is even better than the 1879 edition. Parents using McGuffey's readers will be delighted to have The Eclectic Manual of Methods for the Assistance of Teachers (1885). Be sure and follow the phonics the instruction for the phonics method. I highly recommend the following iOS app for the 1888 McGuffey Phonetic Primer by LiteracySoft. 

2. Rebecca Pollard: Synthetics Phonics: It is pity that this method ever went out of print: Rebecca Pollard's 1897 A Complete Manual: Synthetic Method of Reading and Spelling. Here is Pollard's First Book for Little Folk (1898). Pollard's 1895 First Synthetic ReaderSecond Synthetic ReaderThird Synthetic Reader Here is the 1897 Primer. Here is the 1896 edition of Pollard's Synthetic Speller. Here is the 1887 edition of Pollard's Advanced Speller This is perhaps the best phonics method ever published in the history of reading in America. It is certainly the most beautiful. The stories, poems and maxims are of the highest caliber. Roberta McDonald has just started (10/2/12) a website dedicated to Pollard's Method. We wish her well in bringing Pollard's method into the 21 Century. Here is an 2001 article on Rebecca Pollard

3. FIRST LESSONS IN READING: A NEW METHOD OF TEACHING THE READING OF ENGLISH, BY WHICH THE EAR IS TRAINED TO DISCRIMINATE THE ELEMENTARY SOUNDS OF WORDS, AND THE EYE TO RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS USED FOR THESE SOUNDS IN THE ESTABLISHED ORTHOGRAPHY by Richard Soule and William A. Wheeler (1866). Based on the plan of John C. Zachos. This is an excellent phonics-first method. Here is a 1867 review from The Englander and Yale Review. I am including extra information of the illustrious Rev. John C. Zachos because of his contribution to the history of the teaching of reading in America with phonics-first. Here is his own textbook, The Phonics Text: A Method of Teaching Reading by the Signs of Sounds, Without Altering the Orthography (1866). Here is his still-valuable The Phonics Primer and Primary Reader. Textbook writers today would be wise to carefully examine this method. 

4. Elizabeth Burnz' 1892 The Step-by-Step Primer in Burnz' pronouncing print. Correct pronounciation shown without new letters or change of spelling. Thanks to Dr. Gene Roth for sending me the URL for this book for which I have been looking for over a year. It is a masterpiece of continuing value. Also read: Pure Phonics for Home and Kindergarten, Burnz. Burnz was a leader in spelling reform movement. Here is the first edition of The Spelling Reformer (1878). In Memoriam, Elizabeth Burnz, Oct. 31, 1823 - June 19, 1903). Here is a Student Progress Chart that I have created for my young students learning to read with Burnz' method. It is also available from Google Book: The Step-by-Step Primer Here is a link to Dr. Harris' eye witness testimony to the effectiveness of the Leigh Font in the St. Louis school system Circular No. 8, 1893. Here is a reproduction in traditional orthography of Burnz' Primer with a study of the vocabulary. Here is the New York Times Obituary

5. Katherine E. Sloan: Primary Readers: Containing a Complete Course in Phonics (1905, 1917) First ReaderSecond ReaderNew Sloan Readers Manual, PrimerNew First ReaderNew Second Reader, New Third Reader. (Warning: The Primer is sight-word.)

6. The National Pronouncing Speller by Richard G. Parker and J. Madison Watson. A masterpiece! I have not seen their National First Reader: Primer of Word-Building. I am told that the Reader started with some sight-words and phony phonics, but I see no objectionable elements to this Speller.

7. Lewis B. Monroe wrote a set of readers that include valuable information on the English speech sounds and phonics: How to Teach ReadingMonroe's New First ReaderMonroe's Fourth Reader,

8. The Phonetic Reader by Charles W. Deane (1896). From the looks of this little jewel, it appears that decodable texts are nothing new.

9. The New Code 1871, Reader and Speller. Be careful of the two-letter whole words taught in the very first part of the book. Here is Division Two. The move away from religious and devotional material in English public schools can be seen in this series.

10. Mary Isaphene Ives: Illustrated Phonics: A Text-book for Schools (1909). This is a very helpful book. Here is an earlier book: The Ives First Book. Here is a magazine article by the author: Practical Hints on Teaching Phonics

11. The New Beacon Primer 1921. This was a very famous and successful phonics method. Here is the 1912 edition which has the phonics charts in the front of the book, they were moved to the back in the 1921 edition. Here is the Second Beacon Reader: Folk Tales. Hazel Loring's Reading Made Easy with Blend Phonics for First Grade was influenced heavily by the Beacon method. Here is A Manual of Instruction for Teachers Using the Beacon Readers (1922). Ignore Fassett's instruction to teach some sight-words first. The Phonics Tables and articulation training are excellent. Kathy Diehl recently told me that teachers in Lima, Ohio used Beacon for many years even after the Dick and Jane Readers came in. The knew a good thing when they saw it. 

12. English Words as Spoken and Written: Designed to Teach the Powers of the Letters and the Construction and Use of Syllables and Words by James A. Bowen, 1900. An excellent book.

13. Modern Word Book for Primary Grades: An Elementary Course in Phonetics (1914) J. N. Hunt. Teaches both script (cursive) and print. The words illustrating the consonant sounds are not to be memorized.  Here is a more advanced and comprehensive method by the same author: The Modern Spelling Book, 1896.

14. Reading without Tears by Favell Lee Mortimer (1866). This primer must be used with caution because it uses printed words to teach letter sounds. The author is careful to tell the teacher to spell the words from the beginning with the sounds of the letter. If this advice is followed, there should be no problem. Sir Winston Churchill learned to read with this book. Her religious reader for children, Peep of Days, is also available. The author also wrote Reading Disentangled

15. First Steps to Reading by J. S. Lauria (1862). This is an unusual phonics method. It is not particularly good, but the later decodable texts make nice reading for students who have a good start on their phonics.

16. And Ear and Eye Spelling Book: A Book on Word Study for the Primary Grades by Albert R. Sabin (1904). This is an excellent spelling book for first through fourth grade. It would, also, serve well as a beginning phonics method. Here is The Progressive Speller (1893) by F. P Sever. 

17. Hyde's Derivation of Words: with Exercises on Prefixes, Suffixes, and Stems (1896). An excellent work for advanced readers.

18. Town's New Speller and Definer (1866) by Salem Towns. A profound work. Sander's Union Speller (1872) is somewhat similar.

19. Organic pronounciation; or Reading Made Easy. by G. Shute (1830).

20. Brownie Phonograms by Corinne H. Johnstone (1915). Some really cute pictures to teach phonograms. He also wrote a very good phonics program: A Course in Phonics (1912)

21. The First Reader by Lewis B. Monroe (1875) Manual for the Use of Teachers. Here is the Second Reader. Monroe's Fifth Reader is a delightful book every fifth grader today should have the joy of reading. 

22. Word Mastery by Florence Akins (1913). Unquestionably one of the best phonics methods ever publish. It was in print for many years. Here is a large print edition I typed up for free distribution on the Internet: Word Mastery

23. A Phonics Reading Book for Young Children on a Plan Which Lessens the Difficulty and Saves Much Time in Learning to Read. With an Introduction to the Method, for the use of Teachers. W. L. Robinson (2nd ed. 1876). Excellent Method. Here is the earlier 1862 edition of A Phonics Reading Book for Young Children. Here is an journal article giving the details of Robinson's Method (1881). 

24. Word Studies: Primary Book (1905) by Edwin Sheppe. This may just be the BEST single book for teaching reading and spelling. It is a complete course in reading: from beginning reading to college level - in a single volume. You can order a printed copy from Amazon: Word Studies: Primary and Advanced Books

25. On the Teaching of Reading (1899, 1907) by Nellie Dale. Diane McGuinness, in her book Why Our Children Can't Read, says that this is the right way to teach reading. It bears close examination by anyone involved in teaching reading to children. Here is the Dale Infant Reader.  A Primer of School Methods mentions Dale's method favorably. The authors also published a worthy book on Psychology in the Classroom

26. Information on Leigh Self-Pronouncing Font. This information has been made available by Mrs. Elizabeth Brown. Here is a 1967 study of transitional fonts: "Nineteenth-Century Experiments with Transitional Reading Media" by Albert e. Bothe, Jr. Interesting, but no definite conclusions are drawn. Here is a very detailed article in the NEA Journal on Leigh's Pronouncing Orthography. The Gospel of Luke (1877) and The Gospel of John (1873) in Leigh Self-Pronouncing Orthography. The following readers are in Leigh Font: Franklin First Reader (1874). Franklin Second Reader (1875). Hillard's Primer (1877). Pronouncing Orthography: Results of Its Use - St. Louis

27. Teaching to Read (1912) by James L. Hughes. He also published an earlier book (1889), How to Secure and Retain Attention. Here is his Pedagogical Creed. Be sure and compare and contrast it with John Dewey's Creed written in the same publication. Hughes' essay "Dickens as an Educator" makes delightful reading. Here is a brief tribute and a portrait, School Men of the Hour. Last but not least is his thoroughly delightful book, Mistakes of Teaching

29. See and Say Series, Book 1. Teacher's Manual 1; See and Say Series: Book 2. Teacher's Manual 2; See and Say Series: Book 3. Teacher's Manual 3. The Mastery of Words: Spelling Book. This series by Sarah Louisa Arnold was in publication from 1913 to at least 1946. It appears to be a effective and fun method for teaching beginning reading. 

29. Kellogg's First Reader: Phonetic (1889). This unique phonetic reader uses a phonetic script. Kellogg's Wonder Book: First Book (1887). Be sure to read the preface to this book concerning the baby nature of most beginning reading books. Phonetic  Kellogg's Wonder Book: Second Book, Phonetic. The main value of this book is for researchers desiring to know how older forms of ITA was designed and worked. I wouldn't necessarily recommend the method, but the stories are so good that I learned the script well enough to enjoy some of them.

30. Everyday Language Lessons: Practical English for New Americans (1914) by Markowitz and Storr. While the phonics is not complete, this is a very interesting book that was used to teach English to new immigrants. 

31. Stepping Stones to Reading: A Primer (1888) by Anna Badlam. This excellent primer uses the Leigh "pronouncing orthography." Stepping Stones to Reading: A First Reader (1889). Suggestive Lessons in Language and Reading for Primary Schools: A Manual for Teacher (1886). A superb reading method. 

32. Emma Gordon (1918) A Manual for Teachers of Primary Reading. An enormously valuable addition to my vintage book page. Includes excellent, practical information on phonics instruction. There is a full set of phonics sound cards. Here is her Third Reader (1918). It also contains some fine phonics material. The Comprehensive Method of Teaching Reading - First Five Months. (1908.) Fourth Reader (1918). 

33. Maud Summers (1908) The Summer's Readers: Manual - First Lessons in Reading. This is the earliest use of Caroline Yale's Northampton Charts that I have seen. Here is Summer's Primer. The primer looks all the world like look-and-say reader to me, but it is one of the cutest little book I have ever seen, full of poems and rhymes for little children. I recommend that you read it to your children, but get a phonics book to teach reading. 

34. This is the most unusual and original on my list of reading instruction books. I was not sure whether to list it with reading methods or spelling books. The Syllabic Spelling, or A Summary Method of Teaching Children to Read (1830) by Honoria Williams. 

35. While not a reading program, the following book deals with education from a non-materialist point of view and is very important for its metaphysical orientation to education. Methods of Instruction or That Part of the Philosophy of Education which Treats of the Nature of the Several Branches of Knowledge and the Method of Teaching them According to That Nature (1865) by James Pyle Wickersham. 

36. First Steps in Reading, An Introduction to the Graduated Series of English by James Stuart Laurie (1862). This is a VERY IMPORTANT work from a theoretical standpoint. It would be easy to teach and undoubted highly effective. 

37. Logan Douglas Howell (1910) The Howell Primer. The Howell First Reader (1911). A basic phonics method that would be good for beginners or students in need of review. The Howell Second Reader. He coauthored with Margaret Winifred Haliburton How to Teach Reading (1916, 1919). 

38. Lucy Grey and Other Stories for Boys and Girls (1880) by Timothy Shay Arthur. This has nothing to do with phonics, but it is a great book of stories for kids who have mastered their phonics. 

39. March's A-B-C Book (1881) by F. A. March. Makes some use of Leigh font. An attractive and useful book from the good old days when cursive was the only handwriting style taught. 

40. Ellen M. Cyr's The Interstate Primer and First Reader (1886). This is one of the first reading series by a woman. It is outstanding. Extensive and good use is made of Webster's diacritical marks. Here is the Cyr Second Reader (1894). Here is the Advanced First Reader (1901), the art work of which I have never seen anything more lovely. Cyr's Fourth Reader (1903). Cry Third Reader (1905). Ellen Cyr: Forgotten author of a best-selling reading series by Arlene Barry. 

41. Here is Richard L. Venezky's American Primers: Guide to the Microfiche Collection and Introductory Essay. This is an excellent list of reading primers. 

42. A Sound-English Primer (1890) by Augustin Knoflach. A very important book by a leader in the spelling reform movement. A veritable ITA (Initial Teaching Alphabet) book. Very important for its content and information that children could learn to read much quicker with a reformed spelling - and then transition to traditional orthography. 

43. G. C. Mast 1875 Primer of the Phonic Method of Teaching Reading and Writing Simultaneously with an Introduction. A very important book for its theoretical and practical insights into coupling reading and handwriting instruction. I recently discovered this book (Nov. 21, 2010), but have been applying the same principles with my work teaching Samuel Blumenfeld's Alpha-Phonics with Cursive Handwriting. While I agree with much of what Mast says, I completely disagree concerning his prohibition against teaching letter names. 

44. Phonics in Reading (1908) by Margaret Winifred Haliburton. An excellent introduction to phonics with a Drill Book included. This book clearly indicates the common practice at the time of teaching was to start student reading by the "word method," but introducing phonics right alongside that method. At least the students eventually got phonics, something too many modern students never get. Here is her Primer,  First Reader, and Second Reader

45. Learning to Read: Phonics Made Easy for Primary Teachers and Mothers (1917) by Samuel Bower Sinclair and Anne E. Sinclair. One of the best phonics methods I have seen. Very complete. Sinclair also wrote Introduction to Educational Psychology: A Book for Teachers in Training (1909). 

46. The Improvement of the Mind by Isaac's Watts, to which is added A DISCOURSE on the Education of Children and Youth (1825). 

47. Lectures on Reading (1775) Thomas Sheridan. An old but extremely important work. 

48. The Syllabic Primer and Reading Book (London: 1859) by S. M. Thelwall. This unique methods needs to be studied carefully to see how a syllabic approach to teaching reading might improve reading instruction. 

49. The Ladder to Learning: Collection of Fables; Arranged Progressively in Word of One, Two, and Three Syllables; with Original Morals (1849, 18th ed.), Edited by Mrs. Trimmer. The Ladder to Learning. A later edition with better pictures and clearer text. 

50. Phonics (1917) by Katherine Stichter. 

51. Spoken English (1913) by S. S. Curry. This is a wonderful book on oral reading. It has lots of marvelous poems and passages to read, with suggestions for improving reading. A similar books is Oral English for Secondary Schools (1913) by William Palmer Smith. This book has lots of valuable information on speech correction. 

52. Legends for Lionel (1887) by Walter Crane. Beautifully illustrated book for children. He also illustrated The Baby's Own Aesop. Here is Crane's lectures on Line and Form

53. Juvenile Lessons; or the Child's First Reading Book (1833) by J. K. Smith. He writes in the introduction, "I am very glad, my child, that you can read so well. You have read in the spelling book till you can read quite well. Now,you must have some other book to read in." Note the children were taught through spelling: good advice for today. 

54. Etymological Reader (1872) by Epes Sargent & Amasa May. One of the most important books ever published to teach the Latin and Greek levels of English. I highly recommend this book and plan to use it with my advanced reading students. A unique approach to a much neglected aspect of reading. 

55. Jenny Srickeny's A First Reader (1895). Interesting vowel chart. The method is not particularly good. 

56. The Mother's Primer (1835, 1840) by T. H. Gallaudet. This is the first sight-word primer. It is an example of how NOT to teach reading. He wrote a Child's Picture Defining and Reading Book. Here is Horace Mann's Report to the "Remarks" of thirty-one Boston Schoolmasters (1844). Here is the 1844 Boston Schoolmaster's Remarks on Horace Mann's sight-word program. 

57. Christian Brothers' Primer (1884). Prepared for Catholic schools. Here is the First Christian Reader (1920) a thorough and challenging phonics method. Here is their 1918 Phonics Primer: Part First. Here is the 1918 Phonics Primer: Part Second. Here is an interesting quote, "The large vocabulary presented in this Primer, must not inspire diffidence. The Phonics Method empowers a child to read what no other method could enable him to retain. A child who has mastered the De la Salle Primer, can readily and correctly enunciate any syllable of regular notation in the English language." The Christian Brother's Advanced Reader (1884) has one of the heaviest concentrations of fine English literature that I have ever seen in one volume.

58. Rhyme and Story Primer (1916). A delightful and colorful book or nursery rhymes. Romalda Spalding recommends this book in the 1957 edition of her Writing Road to Reading. 

59. Story Hour Readers: Teacher's Manual. (1913). Like most reading programs of this era, the program starts with learning sight-words and whole-word reading, so I do not recommend the program; but the "Guide to Enunciation" at the book of the books is notable. At that time phonics was still taught, but unfortunately, AFTER a certain amount of look-and-say reading. The Dick and Jane look-and-say readers were an attempt to eliminate phonics altogether, which attempt failed miserably, only to be worsted by whole-language.

Page last edited 19/19/13