This Series of books embodies a graded system of moral instruction. The method of instruction involved in the Scheme is the indirect method. It introduces the pupil, in a concrete and interesting manner, to the subject-matter of morals, by means of fairy tale, myth, fable, allegory, parable, legend, stories of real life, of heroes and heroines, biography, and historical incident. This method was adopted in preference to the more formal, direct, and didactic methods, because of an induction based on a questionnaire circulated among the teachers of ten cities, nearly ninety-five per cent of whom favored the indirect method. This induction is supported, also, by investigations relating to the moral nature in the field of child psychology, and of the psychology of the first years of adolescence.
In the composition, selection, and arrangement, of material, attention has been given to the laws established by scientific pedagogy relating to the unfolding of the fundamental interests of children.
The contents of the Readers have been selected from the best literary sources. Both ancient and modern classics have been largely drawn upon, especial attention having been given, not only to the ethical content, but also to the literary and engaging qualities of the material selected. The Series includes, also, a number of original stories and much re-written matter. Everything contained in the Readers has been carefully adapted to the requirements of the respective grades—the selections having been subjected to a practical test in the schools of New York. Method, material, grading, form, vocabulary, interest, etc., have been made the subject of actual experiment. The aim has been to produce a series of books that will accomplish all the ends of literary Readers, and at the same time embody a graded system of moral instruction.
No especial pedagogical method is required of the teacher in using these books. The same method of questioning that obtains in the use of other Readers may be adopted in the use of the ethical Readers. If, in the teacher's judgment, the pupil fails to apprehend the real moral content of the story or poem, the teacher can easily lead up to it by tactful questioning, but she should be especially careful to avoid the direct method. It is eminently desirable that the pupil should do his own moralizing, hence the teacher should not try to exhort or preach.
The Series, as thus constructed, is the only one of its kind. Books for moral instruction used by the French, the Japanese, the English, as well as in our own country, employ either the direct method, or a combination of the direct and indirect methods, and the English and American books contain much religions material.—This Sries must, therefore, be regarded as the first and only contribution of its character made to moral education. It is earnestly hoped that the Readers may satisfy the almost universal demand for systematic graded instruction in morals in the schools.
This particular book, designed for pupils approximately of the third grade, embodies all the fundamental features of the Series. It deals with the virtues and vices peculiar to children of this age. The material has been prepared with the utmost care. Very naturally in a Reader for pupils of this grade the personal, home, and school virtues are especially emphasized rather than those of a broader social life, which belong to a later period of the child's unfolding. It is, of course, vitally important that the moral of each lesson should be apprehended by every pupil in the class. To this end, in each instance, after the story has been read by the class, it might he told by one or two of its members, and the moral brought out by judicious questioning. Too much empliasis, however, cannot be laid on the fact that direct exhortation should be avoided. The teacher should question the pupil, just as she would on any other story, to determine to her own satisfaction whether he has fully grasped its meaning. For example, in the twenty-first lesson, entitled, "The Water of Life," the following questions might be asked after the lesson:—
1. Why were the king's sons sad?
2. How did the doctor say they could help their father!
3. Did the two older sons succeed in their search? Why not? Why did the dwarf shut them up?
4. Why did the dwarf help the youngest son and not his brothers?
5. Tell how the prince found the water of life.
6. Whom did he help on his way home?
7. Did the prince ever see the dwarf again?
8. What did he beg the dwarf to do for him then?
9. Were his brothers grateful to him?
10. What did they do when they reached home?
11. Why did they steal from him and tell lies about him?
12. Did the king find out the truth? Who told him?
13. What happened to the prince? to his wicked brothers?
Again, in the seventh lesson, entitled, "The Ant and the Cricket," the following questions might be asked after the lesson:—
1. What did the cricket do all summer? What did the ant do?
2. What happened when winter came?
3. Did the cricket have anything to eat or any place to live? Did the ant?
4. Of whom did the cricket beg for help?
5. Why would not the ant help him?
6. What had the cricket wasted?
By this method, the pupil will be led to do his own moralizing, which is much more effective than exhortation by the teacher.
We are permitted, by the kindness of the publishing houses named below, to use the following selections: "How Audubon Came to Know about birds," from Stories of Great Americans, by Edward Eggleston, "Partners," from An American Book of Golden Deeds, by James Baldwin, and "The Children and the Dog," from Chinese Fables and Folk Stories, by Mary Hayes Davis and Chow-Leung (The American Book Company); "Prince Hal Goes to Prison," from Stories from English History, by Albert F. Blaisdell (Ginn & Company); "The Little Spider's First Web," from Among the Meadow People, and "The Young Raccoons Go to a Party" from Among the Night People, by Clara D. Pierson (E. P. Dutton & Company); "The World's Music," from The Child's World, by Gabriel Setoun (John Lane Company); "Up to the Sky and Back," by Katharine Orr, and "Little Ted," from Half a Hundred Stories (Milton Bradley Company); "A Four-Footed Gentleman." from Five Minute Stories, by Mrs. Molesworth (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge); "One, Two, Three," by Henry C. Bunner (Charles Scribner's Sons).
We are also indebted to Mr. Oliver Herford for permission to use "A Thanksgiving Fable," from the volume entitled Artful Antics.