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In the following pages I have attempted to supply a Manual which should prove practically useful in assisting the selftaught to set the first step on the road of learning, by acquiring the skill to read. Before I set about the task, I maturely reflected with myself what qualities a volume, having this purpose, ought to possess. The first requisite I acknowledged was simplicity. Simple the book must be, if thereby the self-taught were to be effectually instructed. But while simple, the book must not be childish, since those who undertake the task of self-culture are beyond the age of childhood. Holding interest to be an indispensable ingredient in all effectual instruction, I asked myself what materials were likely to attract and satisfy such as were rising into manhood and womanhood, or such as had nearly reached that stage of existence. I decided that thoughts bearing on the great realities of existence, were what I must present. Where then could I find such substance, in such a form, as would win, as well as reward, attention ? The answer I gave to the question is before the reader in what follows. There he will find that I have drawn largely on the rich stores of popular wisdom, and that in three forms, corresponding to the Three Parts into which the volume is divided 1, Proverbs; 2, Fables ; 3rd, Great Poets and Great Thinkers, including those of the Sacred Scriptures. In selecting my materials, I have gone to the purest and loftiest sources of thought, both ancient and modern, disregarding all authors of inferior note. I have also been specially careful not only to give a certain completeness to the work, so that it may be to some extent a guide in the practical duties of moral, domestic, and social life; but also to admit nothing but such as would tend to raise and refine as well as enlighten. As is implied in these remarks, the greater part of the volume consists of thoughts supplied by other minds. Some things, however, are original. As an instance I may refer to the section on Intemperance in Part Third.
It will be rightly inferred from the foregoing, that these pages have been prepared with a special reference to such as are verging toward maturity. I know not, however, why they should not be acceptable to full-grown men and women, nor why even children may not be introduced to them with profit as well as pleasure. Not only are the topics of such a character as to be of universal interest as well as importance, but the language will be found for the most part of that pure Saxon element, which is the backbone of our present English, and which is intelligible no less to the peasant than to the prince, to the child than to the man. These qualities seem to recommend the volume to the notice as of educationists in general, so especially to conductors of schools, whether held in the day, or in the evening, or on the Sunday.
As it is my duty to set forth the principles on which I have worked in preparing this Manual, so am I led to take the part of the yntaught BY EXPOSING THE FOLLY OF THE SPELLING Book, when used as the first step to the art of reading; and by explaining briefly
HOW THIS MANUAL OUGHT TO BE USED.
DO NOT TEACH READING BY MEANS OF SPELLING.
At the very first sight it is seen to be strange that when you wish to teach a person to read, you begin by teaching him to spell. What is this but to double the task? Why undertake to teach two things when only one is required ? Is it so easy to learn to read that you may justifiably throw in spelling as a make weight? You might have some excuse if spelling prepared the way for reading. In reality it does the reverse. Spelling not only doubles the task, but increases the difficulty, and that beyond measure. Take in proof the last word I have used. According to the spelling, done in the common way, measure stands thus :-first, alphabetically, em, ee, ay, ess; you, ar, ee; second, syllabically, mea, me, sure, shure measure. Here only one letter, u, retains the sound the pupil is taught to give to it when he learns the alphabet. The other sounds are all most materially altered ; thus em loses its initial e and becomes a mute; ee is contracted into a short e; which short e receives a contribution from a long; two long vowels to make a short one!
More strange is the transformation undergone by ess, for losing an e, and an s it actually takes an h, and so ess becomes sh. Then the letters ur sink into a kind of transitional sound, to introduce ee robbed of one of its vowels, and clipt into a barely heard termination. Take a simpler word, the word book. The word, considered alphabetically, contains these sounds, bee,' 0, 0, kay. The sounds combined make becookay. This is what the child is taught; but woe betide the child that follows his lesson, and calls book beeookay! Here I am reminded how well half a century ago Miss Edgeworth exposed the fallacy of
the Spelling-boɔk in her “Practical System of Education." As error is very long-lived, I borrow the support of her authority.
“As it is usually managed, it is a dreaulful task indeed to learn, and, if possible, a still more dreadful task to teach, to read. With the help of counters, coaxing, and gingerbread, and by dint of reiterated pains and terrors, the names of the twenty-four letters of the alphabet are perhaps, in the course of a few weeks firmly fixed in the pupil's memory.
So much the worse:-all these names will disturb him, if he has common sense, and at every step must impede his progress.
“In the first lesson in the Spelling-book the child begins with a, b, makes ab,.-b, a, makes ba. The inference, if any general inference can be drawn from this lesson, is, that when a comes before 6, it has one sound, and that after 6 it has another sound. But this is contradicted by and by, and it appears that a after b has various sounds, as in bale, bat, and in bare.
“The letter i, in fire, is i as we call it in the alphabet, but in fir it is changed-in pin it is changed again; so that the child,-having been ordered to affix to the same sign a variety of sounds and names, and not knowing in what circumstances to obey, and in what to disregard the contradictory requisitions imposed upon him,--pronounces sounds at hazard, or adheres positively to the last ruled case, or maintains ad apparently sullen, but truly philosophic and sceptical silence. Must e in pen, and e in where, and e in her, and e in fear, be all called alike? The child is patted on the head for reading u as it ought to be read in future; but, if remembering the encouragement, the pupil should venture to pronounce u in gum, and in busy, in the same manner, he would inevitably be disgraced.