Skip to main content

American Primers and Readers

Featuring the Words and Collection of Richard L. Venezky

An online exhibition of the Cubberley Education Library, Stanford University

The Content of Reading Instruction

Overview of the Content of Reading Instuction exhibit case
Detail of left side of exhibit case Detail from the New England Primer, telling the story of the martyrdom of John Rogers

The New-England primer, improved, or, An easy and pleasant guide to the art of reading: to which is added the Assembly's Catechism: adorned with cuts. Greenfield: Printed by Denio & Phelps, sold wholesale and retail at their bookstore, 1816.

Detail of right side of exhibit case
Detail of page 89 of McGuffey's Eclectic Third Reader

McGuffey, William Holmes. 1841. Revised and improved eclectic third reader: containing selections in prose and poetry, from the best American and English writers, with plain rules for reading and directions for avoiding common errors. Cincinnati: Truman and Smith.

"However, reading has never been taught simply to advance literacy. Skill in reading, as a general competency, has always been commingled with inculcation of what to read, that is, attitude toward or preference for particular types of printed materials. For the early colonist, reading was taught for theological ends: to read and interpret Scriptures as required by Calvinist doctrine. In the post-Revolutionary period, reading was the route to good character, particularly as defined by the prevailing Protestant morality. Late in the nineteenth century, reading became the means for acquiring an appreciation of good literature, a goal which, though diluted and diffused by other goals and restrictions, remains in modern reading programs" (Venezky, 1987, p. 253).

Cover image of Alphabet Card

"The ABC approach to introducing reading instruction utilized spelling as the primary approach to pronunciation of words" (Venezky, 1987, p. 254).

Alphabet card, A-M

The uncle's present, a new battledoor. [1810?]. Philadelphia: J. Johnson.

Alphabet card, N-Z

The uncle's present, a new battledoor. [1810?]. Philadelphia: J. Johnson.

Preface to the Beacon Series Gulliver's Travels, p. 96 Gulliver's Travels, p. 97

Fassett, James H. [1913-1923?]. The Beacon fifth reader. Boston: Ginn & Company.