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Good reading is more readily acquired by practice than by precept. The more children read, they will read the more fluently, intelligently, and gracefully; and children can only be induced to read much by giving them subjects to read about, in which they will naturally feel interested, and by so treating these subjects as to render them attractive.
It is with special reference to this principle, both as regards matter and style, that the Reading-Books in this Series have been prepared. The lessons are designed so to interest young people as to induce them to read, not as task-work merely, but for the pleasure of the thing. They avoid as much as possible that dull solidity which so much tends to make school hours a weariness to the young.
The numerous Illustrations afford an important aid in this respect. The interest of children is far more readily quickened through the eye than through the understanding ; indeed it is through the eye that the understanding itself is most quickly reached.
In adapting the lessons for the daily work of the school-room, special care has been bestowed upon the WORD-LESSONS, so as to make them available for a great variety of exercises.
I. The MEANINGS of the difficult words are given at the head of each lesson. The object here has been, not so much to give dictionary meanings, or synonyms, as to translate the words into the language of children. The definitions are in such a form as to admit of their being readily substituted in the lesson for the words explained.
II. The SPELLING-LESSONS are intended to be written in the ordinary MS. character ; but they are here given in the print-writing type used in the previous books of the Series, in order to continue to familiarize the eye of the pupil with the appearance words present when written. This will be found to be a decided help in learning to spell.
“Writing as taught in schools is apt to be too small and indistinct. The letters are either not completely formed, or they are formed by alternate broad and fine str which makes the words difficult to. read. The hand-writing which was generally practised in the early part and middle of the last century was far better than that now in
common use. Pupils should be taught rather to imitate broad printing than fine engraving.
III. For special lessons in PRONUNCIATION, the more difficult words are divided into syllables. Great importance is attached to this exercise, and teachers are advised to make use of it systematically. They will find that when their pupils have learned to pronounce words correctly in syllables, the difficulty of spelling them has been greatly reduced.
To each lesson there are appended QUESTIONS on the subject matter. or on the picture. These questions have been prepared specially to enable the pupil himself to ascertain whether he has mastered the chief points of the lesson. It is suggested that the same questions should be afterwards used as a COMPOSITION EXERCISE. In this case, each answer must be in the form of a complete sentence, reproducing the chief part of the question as a direct statement. For example, the questions on the picture of “The Sailor and the Monkeys” (p. 23) should be thus answered :—“Who is that lying on the ground ?” There is a sailor lying on the ground. “What is he doing?” He is fast asleep. “What do you see on the trees?” There are several monkeys on the trees. “What have they got on their heads ?” They have all got caps on their heads. “What is the monkey on the ground doing?” The monkey on the ground is going to steal a cap for himself. “Where did the others get their caps ?” The others stole theirs also from the sailor's bundle. How were they made to give them up again?” The sailor, in a rage, threw his cap down on the ground, and they, mimicking him, did the same. These answers, read consecutively, form a fair description of the incident in the picture.
As a more advanced exercise, the sentences may be turned into the narrative form, thus :- There was once a sailor lying on the ground, fast asleep, when a number of monkeys came and stole caps from a bundle which was lying beside him. Each put one of the caps on his head; and when the sailor awoke, he saw the little mimics running about the trees with his caps on. He could not induce them to give them up; so, in a rage, he threw his own cap down on the ground, when they, following his example, all did the same.”
The Proverbs, Anecdotes, &c., scattered through the volume, will afford a pleasant change from the continuous lessons; while the elliptical form in which many of them are given will exercise the ingenuity of the children, and encourage them to voluntary working,– truly the best assistant which the teacher can have in the performance of his arduous duties.
From the Syllabus issued in England by the Education Department, for Candidates for Government Certificates, 1872.
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