A Fifth Reader

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Ginn & Company, 1892 - Readers - 356 pages
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I have a hard copy of this book. It was my great grandmother’s fifth grade primer. I found it and, as a teacher, read it with great interest. I was astounded at the sophistication of the curriculum for fifth graders. When I compared it to our current expectations of fifth grade readers, we have regressed, not progressed.
Many students of that day were expected only to complete eighth grade, but they were also expected to learn as much as possible in those years. Perhaps we have become lazy in our current reading instruction. Children in the early 1900’s were reading at a much more accelerated rate than our children of today. If you compare the works for children from 1915 and before to the children’s books of today, it looks like re have regressed 100 years rather that progressed. Current test scores tend to support that idea.
I took my great grandmother’s fifth grade reader and actually practiced the breathing exercises in the section on Elocution (a skill we no longer teach). Thankfully, I was alone when I tried the breathing exercises, I am sure I was a laughable spectacle as I inhaled and exhaled aspirating various basic sounds. I have to say that I felt much more alert and energetic when I completed the exercise. The old folks knew more that we give them credit for when it came to basic instruction, learning standards and even physical health.
Reading books like this deserve a serious second look as an instructional curriculum. The Whole Language concept currently in vogue for teaching English at the elementary and middle school levels clearly does not work well. A new look at old ways may be in order.


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