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SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS.
HE purpose of this series of books is indicated by its name,
was to make the formalities of reading subordinate to its real end, which is the acquisition of thought from the printed page. It is urged, therefore, that you aim not first to teach children how to read, and then incidentally to give them some acquaintance with good literature; but that you seek primarily and chiefly to acquaint your pupils with literature as such, and secondarily to teach them the technique of reading. You will find, if you follow this plan, that not only will the first object be gained, but that the children will learn the art of reading much better than when the chief emphasis is placed upon this art.
In a book composed of good literature, words should be studied only as they occur in the text, and as their study is necessary to an understanding of the text. Such study is doubtless important, but great care should be taken to prevent its interference with the real object of reading, which is acquaintance with literature.
The study of literature should not be confused with the study of the biographies of authors. Acquaintance with the lives and personal traits of authors is often interesting, and frequently throws light upon their writings, yet its value is but secondary at best; children, especially, should give their chief attention to the writings themselves. Let them read freely and abundantly, until they become absorbed in their reading. Do not interrupt them too frequently with criticisms. In no case spoil a reading lesson by introducing the study of technique for its own sake. Remember always that the ends to be secured are a love for good literature and the storing of the mind with noble ideals.
While the selections in this series of Readers are, in so far as possible, literary wholes, in many cases it has been necessary to abbreviate. Sometimes chapters have been taken out of books, the chapters in themselves constituting complete productions. In all cases of abbreviation, it is urged that the attention of the children be called to the books from which the selections are made, and that they be advised to read them entire. Lead the children to the use of the public library through their reading lessons.
The ends above set forth, included in the term “the mastery of books,” are of course the real objects of all reading. They are secured by what is known as silent reading, whereas the school reading lesson consists in reading aloud. The object of the latter is twofold: first, the making plain to the teacher that children are capable of mastering books ; second, instruction in the art of oral reading. While this art is not, as it is often treated, of primary importance, but wholly secondary, it is yet important, and should receive careful attention.
Good oral reading includes both intellectual and physical elements. The first implies clear and sympathetic comprehension of the subject matter, so that the reader is able to impart it to others as if it were original with himself. The second involves a mastery of the various physical organs used in reading. The common advice, “ Read as if were talking,” is correct if the pupil talks correctly, — that is, it covers the first point,“ sympathetic knowledge of the subject matter;" but in this country, where the voices and modes of speech are proverbially bad, it does not cover the second.
First, then, be sure that the children understand what they are reading. Try to secure their interest in it, and then expect them to read it to you as if they were imparting fresh and valuable information. This requires a thorough knowledge of the text and context, and the free use of the dictionary and other reference books. The children should read their school reading lessons as they would read any book on any occasion, because they are interested in what the book contains.
Second, see to it that the children become masters of those portions of the body which are used in reading, so that when they comprehend what they are reading, they can impart it to others in a natural, pleasing, and lucid manner. Practically, the entire body is used in good reading. Specifically, the points to be carefully observed are carriage or position of the various parts of the body, proper breathing, clear enunciation, correct pronunciation, and quality of voice.
1. Carriage. The body should be erect, so that a vertical line passes through the ears, the shoulders, the hips, and the heels. This position should not be stiff, but all the muscles should be free, so that the various members can move gracefully and readily as may be required. To secure this freedom, calisthenic exercises are useful.
2. Breathing. The breathing should be deep rather than superficial. It is often well, before a reading lesson, to have the class stand in correct position and draw in through their nostrils — not through their mouths as deep and as full breaths as they are capable of taking. This exercise repeated several times will tend to produce good breathing during the reading lesson. Children should be taught to breathe through the nostrils, and to use the diaphragm and the muscles of the
abdomen in breathing even more than those of the chest. They should be taught to take in new breaths before the supply of air is exhausted to such a degree as to affect the voice.
3. Enunciation. Few children enunciate all sounds distinctly. If you watch children carefully, you will find that some have difficulty with vowels, others with consonants. Special drill exercises should be given to classes to cover general deficiencies, and to individuals to meet particular needs.
4. Correct Pronunciation. This is determined by the usage of good authors. To avoid errors it is necessary to consult frequently some standard dictionary, with which every class room should be supplied.
5. The Quality of the Voice. Another consideration to which it is necessary to give careful attention is the quality of the voice. It is said that very few Americans have agreeable voices. This is a serious national defect. No one who has felt the charm of a rích, full, gentle voice needs to be told the importance of training the voices of children.
Special attention should be given to timbre, pitch, and inflection, Strive to cultivate in your children full, rich voices. In reading, give careful heed to appropriateness of vocalization, that is, see that the children use the proper quality of tone and the right inflections to express the feeling of what they are reading. Good reading is a beautiful art, and cannot be secured by obedience to technical laws merely. It can only be secured by constant watchfulness and care on the part of both pupil and teacher.
Enflamed with the study of learning and the admiration of virtue; stirred up with high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages.
THE READING LESSON AND ITS USES.
not only the treasures of literature, but also all that portion of his education which he obtains through the use of books. Hence, the importance of teaching it well, and from the right point of view, which is that of its content.
Reading as an art gets its value not from itself, but from the use to which it is put.
Through the reading lesson, the teacher has a wider opportunity for influencing the child's life than through any other study.
First. She can make it a means for the better comprehension of the other subjects of his curriculum. This is a simple, but practical and important, use.
Many a failure in geography, history, and arithmetic is due to the inability of the children to read understandingly the text-books upon those subjects.
The teaching of reading should by no means be confined to the use of School Readers. Every lesson employing a book should be a reading lesson. The teacher should see to it that the pupils are able to read the books they are required to use. They should often be asked to read aloud in class from various text-books.
Not only so, but they should be led to trace out and see the relations of the subject in hand to the other subjects of their school course, to literature, and to life. Excursions should be made continually into related fields of fact and idea, to be found in the Readers and in other available literature.
It is not the purpose of the authors that one of these higher Readers be read through consecutively. The selection to be read on any particular day should be chosen to meet some immediate need of the pupils, as determined by the geography, history, language, or nature lesson, or by its appropriateness to the mental or moral condition of the children.
The reading lesson should often constitute a part of the lesson upon some other subject. While the pupils are interested in some subject belonging to a particular branch of study, at once, as a part of the exercise in that study, the class should read appropriate selections from STEPPING STONES TO LITERATURE or from other books bearing directly upon the subject.
THE READING LESSON AND ITS USES.
It is important that children acquire early the habit of looking upon reading and all other arts as means to ends, and not as ends.
Second. The reading lesson enables the teacher to introduce the child to the true study of literature. All literature, whether found in these Readers or elsewhere, should be treated with the respect worthy of its dignity, and not as mere material for a reading exercise.
Every literary production used for a reading lesson should be approached by the teacher and the class as a treasure-house of fact, idea, or beauty. Its excellencies, whether of matter or style, should be made apparent by discovery on the part of the children, if possible.
The reading lesson should be primarily a literature lesson. The children should regard it as a search after hidden treasures, and through it they should learn how to approach books, and what to look for in reading. They should be taught to distinguish superiority of style, to see the beauty and aptness of figures of speech, to discover the fine shades of thought and feeling which the author has brought out by his choice of words. hey should be led to consider literature not only intrinsically, but extrinsically as well. They should find out the relations of the literary production to the author's own life, to contemporaneous events, to history, to other facts and ideas within the child's range of vision, to other literature, and to life. Especially should they be directed to other reading similar in style, thought, or subject.
Third. Through the reading lesson the teacher can to a large degree direct the general reading of her class, not only in school but at home. This is one of its most valuable functions. Children read poor or vicious books because they do not know others, or do not know how much more interesting the better books are.
The reading lesson should lead to literary voyages of discovery to the public library and other sources of supply. Through it, children should become accustomed to the use of books, and be led to love them.
Care should be taken that the books suggested be within the range of the children's comprehension and interest. It is well for the teacher occasionally to take the class to the library and show them how to find what they need, and then to send them often for books for their individual use and that of the class.
By these and other means, the reading lesson may be used to clarify and amplify the treatment of all the subjects of the curriculum, to teach the child discrimination in regard to literature, to cultivate his taste for the truly excellent, and to introduce him wisely, pleasantly, and permanently to the world of books, and through books to a richer life.