Finding American Ideals in Early Primers

By Laurie Andes.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Dual language instruction, nonsense syllables, the role of central government in local education, the beginning of the textbook publishing industry, and regional differences in education practices are elements that have existed in American education from its inception. An examination of the textbooks used by early missionaries and teachers provides insight into these elements of literacy instruction. This paper includes a close look at the primers and textbooks used in early literacy instruction in the colonies, the early United States, and the nineteenth century. There is evidence of instruction in English and Native American language in texts from 1669. Dedications in the frontispieces of texts display allegiance to either the king of England or a colonial patriot. A sense of the importance of all things American becomes apparent in examining texts at the end of the eighteenth century. Patriotic motifs appear, demonstrating the pervasive influence of government in literacy and education. Advertising by authors demonstrates the beginning of a market for school textbooks. Early schoolmasters developed their own methods and included testimonials, advertising and instruction to teachers in their texts. International volumes give way to American versions as the century turns. Regional differences in educational preferences can be seen by examining texts from the nineteenth century. The early Blue Back Speller from New England and the Elson Readers from the Midwest all provide insight into the regional concepts of what education should include. This research uses methods of the historian to examine the confluence of literacy materials, government influence, textbook publishing trends, and regional differences in educational preferences.

Keywords: Early Textbooks, Primers of Early America, Controversial Topics in Literacy

International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.97-108. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.680MB).

Laurie Andes

Associate Professor in Education, Department of Teacher Education, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland, USA

Her research interests include the history of literacy instruction, literacy instruction for English Language Learners, and Educational Leadership. She holds a Masters Degree as a Reading Specialist,and a doctoral degree in Educational Administration. She has taught first, fourth, and fifth grades, and now teaches undergraduate teacher candidates in the Elementary Education Program and graduates in Educational Leadership Program at Salisbury University, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

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