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Every point connected with the simple habits of animals, domestic and tame, is delightfully interesting to all children, and is a feeling which should by every means be encouraged. Never will amusements be so pure, so charming, as those of nature when life begins to open in action, and the mind to enter into her pursuits with alacrity and joy.
When a general knowledge of the many subjects of the natural world which may be found in a mansion, * its offices, gardens, grounds, or farm, prepared and unprepared, living in the enjoyment of their powers, or destroyed for the use or safety of man: when a general knowledge of these subjects is in a great measure obtained, by the first and second means, namely, observation in the child, explanation in the mother, we find this child prepared for instruction in a more direct and formal manner ; little books are
* Fire, air, earth, water, rain, snow, ice, frost, dew, &c. Coals, salt, slate, sand, stone, marble, gravel, &c. Iron, brass, copper, tin, lead, &c. Trees, wood, flowers, fruit, grass, hay, corn, moss, straw, barley, oats, wheat, rye, mahogany, coffee, tea, milk, rice, potatoes, garden stuff, &c. Dogs, cats, owls, sparrows, crows, game of all kinds, ducks, geese, turkeys, and all poultry; pigs, lambs, sheep, deer, horses, cows, &c. Salt and fresh water fish in common use, with shell-fish; lobsters, crabs, oysters, shrimps, perriwinkles, &c, Bees, honey, wax, wasps, flies, mice, beetles, crickets, snails, gnats, &c. .
Things prepared from natural productions, as silk, linen, carpetting, dannel, muslin, leather, tortoiseshell, combs, brushes, ribbons, china, glass, silver plate, beer, paper, candles, soap, sugar, butter, bread, cake, flour, cheese, pens, ink, sealing wax, bran, needles, pasteboard, keys, wafers, paper, clocks, watches, wine, &c.
purchased, and he makes the first regular step to science through the first lesson in the art of reading.
R E A DIN G.
" UNDERSTANDEST THOU WHAT THOU READEST ?" " HOW CAN
I EXCEPT SOME MAN SHOULD GUIDE ME." " THE WISDOM OF A LEARNED MAN COMETH BY OPPORTUNITY." " (WORDS) ARE ALL PLAIN TO HIM THAT UNDERSTANDETH."
When the child is to learn the characters of the alphabet, which he may do at four, or five, or even at six years of age, a box of ivory or wooden counters, on which the letters are pasted, may be given him as a toy ; and he may pour them out into his lap, on the floor or on the grass, and be encouraged to bring up every piece to his mother to learn the name of it. These names he will soon know, and a pretty simple spelling-book 'may then be given him in form, and his name written on the cover. There are little books of this kind at the price of a few pence, which have a tolerably engraved animal put under every letter of the alphabet, and a child is extremely well pleased to be told what every one is.
Now the pleasure of A, B, C, even thus prudently excited, is very soon found to pass away, and the mother who really wishes her child to have a taste, or rather no early dislike to this useful art, cannot be too careful of doing any one thing which will hasten
the change. She must not desire her child to come up and say his letters, but must rather bring him, by some incidental remark or action, to talk himself of these characters. She must not fix any hour in the day, or indeed any day for this office, but leave the matter apparently to chance. The characters in general are soon learned ; but the first combination of letters into ba, be, in my opinion, is one of great difficulty to get over. For what can a child find the least entertaining in any union of two letters only ? A very little of this division should suffice, or he will indeed be weary of his new employment. We should hasten to words of three letters, and here we may, have many objects described by engravings, which will speak for themselves. The child may read b a; he can go no further till he is assisted with one more letter; t, for instance, when the figure of a bat may be drawn. But he will name the letters cow, bee, or p ig, and the pictures will describe bee, and pig, and cow, &c. If we can arrive without disgust here, we have passed the unsafe ground; the rest of the way is comparatively smooth. Whole stories may be, and are written in words of three letters ;* and many animals and things are expressed by such diminutive words. The delight of making out what he can understand will be encouragement to the child to go on; and his progress, however slow, will be rapid enough if it be actually some at the end of the week.
>* A pretty story book for children, “ Cobwebs to catch Flies,” is partly composed of words this length.
There are many schemes and plans for teaching little children to read in a very short space of time; · but we never find, I believe, that children so taught
are, in the end, wiser or cleverer than those gradually and gently initiated into the mysteries of the hornbook.* For my own part, I should expect the reverse, and can truly say I know of no example. The powers of mind require a gradual and gentle development; they cannot be forced or hurried, with suffering injury. The newly discovered chemical process for bleaching, instead of that by time and air, has, it is said, a speedy effect, but by it the texture of the manufacture is prematurely decayed ; and in the same way the schemes and plans of those who would hurry intellect, and push forward by a short road to eminence in acquirement, are in general found to be pernicious. If idleness be once banished, or rather if it has never been allowed to shew itself in children,
* It is a mistaken notion, that persons, to be made clever, should be made to read at a very early age. Let them, during the first years of life, store their minds with ideas drawn from the objects around them, and they will afterwards go to study with more advantage, will proceed with greater rapidity, and will retain with stronger powers of memory the knowledge they acquire.
This is not a mere conjecture, but is corroborated by facts which have come within the writer's notice. Parents in the North of England often employ their children in some useful occupation till they have attained the age of twelve or fourteen years, and then send them to school. The youths, conscious of their ignorance, apply to their studies with an assiduity that is truly astonishing, and in the course of a year or two render themselves superior to those who have been under tuition ever since they could talk,
they will love to be engaged ; and if a book be not rendered odious to them, when they are old enough to begin the elements of reading, they will be as ready to seek employment for themselves, in picking out letters and joining them into words of the animals they are acquainted with, as they are to dress a doll, gather weeds out of the ground, or wheel a barrow of turf or sand. The whole list of employments and amusements, or, if we may so express it, of infant study and recreation, will be blended into one mass of in and out-door occupation, which may at first seem to be mixed by the child himself, without order or distinction. Tired of his wheelbarrow, he may, on a fine summer afternoon, throw himself on the grass under a spreading tree, and begging his mother to sit down by him, produce from this very barrow his little book, and ask her to let him find out what some of the pictures are. It will never entér bis head that he is studying a task, or that one room in the house, and that only, should be the place where book business is to go on. Give him a hint of this, and the book will never appear in the barrow again, nor the bag, nor the pocket; neither will he ever care to fetch it from its hiding-place.
But no prudent mother will act thus. She will, on the contrary, be ready to assist his endeavours after amusement by every encouragement in her power ; and when fatigue arises, as it soon will do, from the exertion of finding out the characters of the alphabet so combined, the mother will be solicited to read herself, by “ Now you, mamma." This request she should at once comply with, and begin to read the