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secured; and in the adoption of the plan of individual reading instead of class exercises. If there were no other evidence of the diverse and unsettled conditions prevailing the prolific production of materials for the reading classes by school book publishers would of itself be convincing.
That so exact outlines will ever be made for the work that each teacher can follow them with an undeviating conformity, is neither to be expected nor desired. It seems difficult for progressive teachers not to be in some respects extremists. The momeno tum acquired in their quest for the better way carries them past that golden mean where their work might be brought into perfect equipoise.
Each, however, in his specialty illustrates the possibilities in his line of development. That one who can cull from others the best fruits of their growth will gain from them effective strength.
I do not think the importance of reading in the schools has been overestimated. I do believe there is a strong tendency to undervalue the subject; that there is a deplorable failure on the whole to attain results commensurate with the time and effort given to the work.
The art of reading must take precedence of all the accomplishments which come from a familiarity with books. That our pupils may be successful in their efforts and fairly economical of their time in the pursuit of their study of literature, history, the natural sciences, or even mathematics, they must have mastered to a considerable degree, the power of interpreting readily written language.
Time is being constantly wasted in school duties because the pupils cannot gain more promptly the exact thought which is designed to be conveyed in the various texts they are pursuing
In the early training to read, therefore, the teacher is developing the most efficient instrumentality for his future use in the education of the child.
The reading exercises in school, it seems to me, should result in a threefold accom• plishment, (1) the ability to apprehend mentally the thoughts and feelings of the author; (2) the power to give accurate and natural oral expression to these thoughts and feelings, and (3) a growing taste for that which is purest and best in the literature of the world.
The first two of these accomplishments, though distinct arts, are very closely related in their pursuit. In the school room they go along hand in hand, but the possession of the one does not necessarily imply the possession of the other. Not infrequently the ability to give quite accurately the oral expression to the thought is secured while the ideas are still vague in the mind of the reader. Many a public man reads torni-ntingly poor his hymns, scriptures, documents, or addresses, who gives unquestionable evidence of being an extensive, accurate, and appreciative mental reader.
That a thorough training in both phases of the art, or both arts, if you prefer, should be given the pupils of the public schools, is beyond a question.
Not long since a young minister, educated in some of the best colleges and seminarles of this and other lands, was heard to deplore the fact that in all his preparation no attention had been given to the cultivation of his voice for pleasing and effective speaking.
If the colleges and especially the professional schools, in which men are being trained for the bar, the pulpit, and the rostrum, are indifferent to the culture of the organs of speech, we can scarcely look with surprise on the indifference of the lower schools.
More recent years have, however, seen the institution of courses in elocution in many of our foremost colleges and universities.
Though Emerson says, “ Think the thought and the expression will take care of itself," many a profound thinker fails to realize but a small part of his possible power with the public, because of his inability to give pleasant and forcible expression to his thoughts.
Careful and systematic physical drill should be an accompaniment of the work in reading throughout all the grades. I would have included in this breathing exercises, that the lungs may receive the development and power that will enable the reader, with ease, to deliver complex and prolonged sentences, drill in posture, that he may be trained to take naturally and gracefully an erect, firm, unconstrained position ; drill of the organs upon elementary sounds, that the ability to enunciate all sounds and articulate with distinctness all words may be secured; drill upon stress, pitch, movement and modulation that the voice may be given compass, and that the power to express diverse thoughts and varied feelings may be acquired. Such exercises, if frequently and systematically employed for even a very brief part of the time of the recitation, will so invigorate a class as to quicken mental activity, and give to the remaining moments greatly increased value.
Oral reading is an art of which every one avails himself in this age. The voice is the most flexible of all sound producing instruments, and that outline of reading work which ignores all efforts at its cultivation is unworthy the schools of Michigan in their present state of development.
Said Ruskin: “If I could have a son or daughter possessed of but one accomplish ment it should be that of good reading."
But this training should be rational, not a mere matter of imitation further than that mechanical drill that is essential to a good physical development of the organs.
For the expression of thought there must be the fullest possible appreciation of the author's meaning, which can result only from an ability to comprehend and a thorough study. That good oral reading in a general sense can result without a substratum of good thinking is the conclusion of a serious fallacy. That by much imitative drill it may result in specific cases is apparent.
On this side of the art of reading, I am firmly of the opinion that schools in general should do far more to enable their pupils to give accurate and natural expression, in clear, strong, sonorous voices, to the ideas and emotions underlying the productions they study.
But the other phase, the silent gleaning of the ideas which the printed page presents, is the study of chiefest importance. It is this power which puts us into communion with all ages and gives to us the acquaintance and inspiration of the great and good of all times. It enables the soul to drink in the accumulated wisdom of the past, and to feel the pulsations that are throbbing in the heart of humanity to-day.
Ability to read aright implies ability to know and to appreciate.
How to aid the pupils of our schools to attain to the highest possible accomplishment in this work is the question which earnest teachers are everywhere asking.
Much depends upon the habits formed in the earliest use of books.
The primaries must be held responsible for many evils which, incorporated into early habits, are eradicated, if ever, only by persistent effort against great difficulties. From the first every word should be made to yield its fullest possible meaning to the mind of the child.
The habit of challenging every word and requiring it to yield up its treasure, will be an invaluable one to be formed in the earliest days of school life. At the first the written words learned are those which already form a part of the child's vocabulary. With these great care should be taken that advancement be made only as rapidly as a full association can be made of the written with the spoken word. Soon, however, words entirely new to the ear of many of the pupils are reached. Here the progress must stop until a mastery of the signification and use is acquired.
In the primary grades meanings should be developed from the general knowledge of the class, from objective illustration, or the teacher's explanation; but in the grammar and higher grades free and constant use of the dictionary should characterize the preparation of every lesson. In this manner every exercise becomes an instrumentality in the enlargement of the child's available vocabulary and thus of his power of comprehension and expression. One of the most important aids in preventing the eyil so prevalent of reading simply "words, words, words,” is to inculcate the habit from the beginning of making the word but the dress of the idea. But these verbal studies will avail but little unless they are accompanied by a gradual development of the power of attention. To this attainment the successful instructor will give constant thought and judicious effort.
Unless the habit of concentrating one's energies upon the work in hand shall have a steady and assured progress, continual waste will attend all efforts at education. At first the power of voluntary attention is almost entirely wanting. Curiosity must be appealed to. A degree of charm must be thrown about all subjects that the interest may be awak. ened and held and the mental forces brought into focus upon the work. Weariness and lassitude must be avoided by a careful limitation of the exercise, by variety and expedient. By these efforts emphatic tendencies may be given at an early age which, if sustained and nurtured, become helpful servants to supplement all our later exertions. With increase of strength the will may be appealed to to control and direct the attention, but at no period can the teacher afford to fail to bring to bear all the attractive and inspiring features which may surround the exercise.“ Diffuse consciousness” characterizes too frequently not simply the pupils of the schools, but those who have passed beyond their immediate influence.
The teacher should be conscious that the power of closer and more prolonged attention is growing with advancing lessons.
The regular work of the reading class in the grammar grades should lead up by a gradual process of development into the more comprehensive study of literature in the high school.
Pupils should, in those grades, be brought into an acquaintance with many of the better writers of the world and learn much of their lives and the extent and nature of their productions. Teachers in the intermediate grades of the common schools, it has seemed to me, too often fail to realize the great influence they may have in cultivating a taste for that which is pure and ennobling in the world's literature. We cannot ignore the present condition. Reading matter lies all about the boy and girl of the present day. They will read something if they have any intellectual activity. Unless the schools afford a wise directive influence, in the vast majority of cases the reading will be misdirected. The story exciting the passions and quickening the baser impulses will crowd out those whose influences would be exalting and educative in the truest sense. If, in this taste-forming age, a wise direction is not given by school or home a diseased taste will result which can be remedied only by arduous exertion, and so much ease and satisfaction will be found in following the bent thus taken that it will be only in rare cases that a suitable remedy will be applied to effect a recovery.
What can be done? Give pupils definite work to perforin in the preparation of lesBons, make the methods of the recitation such as to cause pupils to come to it each day with a hearty relish, inspire them with enthusiasm by your own excellence of preparation and large appreciation of the subjects studied; bring within the reach of pupils for their spare moments at school or evenings at home such material in stories, biography, travels, history, science or poetry as when read will leave a beneficent influence upon the whole life.
There is probably no class which can be conducted with as great ease on the part of the teacher as the reading class; there is none that offers as enticing inducements to great efforts on his part, if he fairly appreciates his opportnnities.
The printed page is the medium through which the soul of the reader gets its glimpses of the soul of the author and it is an all important duty of the teacher to clarify this medium for the child. To accomplish this result a series of carefully prepared questions should be proposed with each lesson which will lead to a thorough study of the text and awaken a spirit of research. At this point the reading should have an intimate connection with the study of granımar and other language work. Reason, judgment, and imagination should be brought into activity in the study of worthy literary productions. The figures of personification, antithesis, simile and metaphor, etc., should be taught, and their effects observed. Allusions to distinguished persons and places, to principles of science, to the arts, to the customs of former times, to literary works of prominence are of frequent occurrence in the writings of all eminent authors.
Their investigation presents a large and important field for awakening and storing the mind. In many cases to be sure this field is too large to be compassed until years of maturity are reached, yet by such study within the limits of the pupils' powers are they brought into the spirit of the production and intelligence and taste cultivated.
As to the amount that should be read in the schools no rule could be given, though this matter has received much attention during recent years. I suppose in many very successful schools the old one-set-of-readers plan may still be found in operation with commendable results. It has become customary, however, in the majority of the graded schools, to bring into use a large supply of supplementary reading in various forms. When the idea controls that we educate children in proportion to the amount of reailing we enable them to do we are liable to error. In the lower grades where the work of securing a good vocabulary is an important end, I believe much additional work may, with great advantage, supplement the text-book, provided the new words do not increase too rapidly. The finding of the same words in a great variety of relations, while affording the necessary drill in prompt recognition is a great aid in arousing the mental activities.
In the higher grades three classes of materials may very properly be employed, first that which is recreative consisting of interesting stories by reputable authors. This may be used chiefly for the story, and will not require great depth of study. The second class I would name information reading, such as works of history and science adapted to the advancement of pupils. With such works less rapidity of progress should be made and sufficient time given to arrange the subject definitely and systematically in mind. The third division may be termed literary reading. This should have the greater portion of the time of class exercises. The nature of the work should be intensive rather than extensive. The finer thoughts, should be re-read,
memorized and recited, and the pupil brought to feel the literary beauty and strength which characterizes the work.
I have a great respect for the advanced reader still, and I believe that, if used aright, it is preferable to much of the work that has been introduced to take its place. I would have such readers dwell long enough upon the writings of a given author to establish a degree of acquaintance with, and love for his works. Reading upon a single
a production as “ The Lady of the Lake,” “Robinson Crusoe,” Tales of a Grandfather," “Tales of Two Cities,” etc., at successive class exercises for a term or more, has not, within the range of my experience or observation, proved the success that has been hoped for such schemes. The advancement must, of necessity, be slower than eager, interested pupils can be reconciled to, and as a result the exercise will take on a spirit of monotony and indifference. The reading of productions that may be readily comprehended by children without the aid of a teacher, should be as spontaneous as possible. Much more will be accomplished in forming a pure reading taste, if the school can have access to even a small collection of such books, by the teacher encouraging pupils to take them to their homes for such spare moment reading as may there be secured.