Gateway to the Classics: Primary Reading and Literature by
Primary Reading and Literature by 

General Principles

Primary reading, as is true of all reading, is for the purpose of promoting thought, and right reading habits are laid by first developing an interest in and love for reading. Reading is not, primary, word study or word recognition. Even the simplest kind of reading means getting thought and feeling from written or printed characters. Oral reading is a still more complex process, involving, not only getting ideas, but all that goes to make oral expression of the thought and feeling. Children are led by desire and interest to get the thought, and the interest is sustained through their love for stories. The most important factor in teaching a child reading is to develop and foster his desire to read. The only means of ensuring these conditions is to provide reading matter that all children enjoy.

The process herein suggested consists in the following distinct steps: The telling of the story so that each child has the thread of interest; the reproduction of the story by the pupils dramatizing it, or one or more telling it. The presentation of the sentence, as it appears in the Primer story; teaching the individual words of these sentences, from the sentence, as sight words; a phonic drill to be given daily after the reading of the first Primer story. The first work on phonics will consist in the drills on consonant values in words known to the child. Later, these consonant elements will be used in blending with phonograms to form words. Ultimately, the drill will be in the phonic analysis of the new words as they appear.

Sight Words

Every teacher knows that once the child has made a beginning, he will recognize many words at sight, from the context. But, relying upon sight-word drill alone has never resulted in independence in the recognition of new words. Therefore, after the first few lessons in the Primer, the drill in phonics should begin and should receive constant, systematic, daily attention until the children are able to sound out most new words for themselves.


It is not the purpose here to set forth a "scientific system" of phonics. It is not believed desirable that children in these early grades have even a "complete system" of phonics. It is the aim to give, in this manual, only such work as experience has shown necessary to train children into independent power over words in their reading vocabulary.

There have been complete and scientific systems used for drill in the past. There are such systems yet in use in some sections of the country. But these systems have proved generally unsatisfactory. Their failure may be very clearly traced to the fact that they are too complex and elaborate.

While it is true that the child needs to know the vowel values only as he may find them in combinations, he must  know all of the consonant values. These should be taught from words which the child knows at sight. True, some of the consonants have more than one value but if those which occur most frequently in his reading are first taught, he will get the others in much the same way that he gains a knowledge of the vowel values—from letter combinations and from context.

Most of the consonants have only a single value. These are b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, qu, r, t, w, y. Wh  as in wheat, cr  as in cry, sk  as in sky, gr  as in ground, c  (hard), g Christian (hard) and s  (sharp) are other values that the child will need for drill in the use of the "Reading-Literature Primer."

Diacritical Marks

Diacritical marks are used, in the main, to show vowel values. If the varying sounds of the vowels are to be taught, in the abstract, these marks or some similar aid will be necessary. But it is not necessary that the vowel values should be so taught. Indeed, it is not even desirable. It is much better to teach these values in combination with final consonants and in phonograms. In most cases, the consonant or the combination of letters immediately following the vowel will control the value of that vowel. It is better to ignore the use of these marks until about the fourth grade, when the dictionary is brought into use. Then pupils may gain a working knowledge of them in a very few days.

Non-Phonic Words

It may be suggested that these drills will not give power over non-phonic words; but if the child receives regular and thorough training in the essentials of phonics, he can easily be led to use his knowledge, with increasing power, in mastering all new words. However, there is no good reason why such words as will not readily answer to his knowledge of phonics may not be taught as sight words.

A good way to learn to recognize new non-phonic words is to cover or omit the new word, reading the rest of the sentence, then judge what word will fit the context. This plan is strongly recommended because it trains in reading ideas.

In teaching words at sight, the teacher will devise ways of securing repetition. The aim is to get interesting presentations. One good way is to write the word several times in easy sentences, or alone, with colored crayons, etc. Of course, this is drill, and drill may become a mechanical grind. But drill is necessary, and the teacher must exercise her ingenuity to secure variety, so that the work is done in a snappy way. With an indolent and inefficient teacher, any kind of drill is likely to become monotonous.

Teach new words by relating the work to new steps in the story.

Words that have little individual meaning—as conjunctions, some adjectives, prepositions, etc., should be dropped into the thought by making use of them.


There can be no reading without the right sort of expression. Children, before entering school, have learned to express themselves in words almost entirely by imitating those with whom they have been most closely associated. They are likely to imitate even the tone and inflection of those for whom they have the greatest affection. This leads, many times, to faulty use of words, wrong pronunciation and peculiar expression, all of which the teacher must gradually and patiently correct.

Reading is getting and expressing thought and feeling. The effort of the teacher, therefore, must be to lead the child to get thought and feeling, and then good expression will usually come naturally.

The following principles are essential in the teaching of Primary reading, and the Primary teacher should study what here follows until she knows the ideas as well as she knows the multiplication table.

1. The child should learn to read as naturally as he learns to talk and for exactly the same reason—a desire to find out something, or a desire to tell something.

Poor expression is the result of imperfect comprehension of the thought. There must be preparation on the thought before trying to read. The children must be aught to look ahead and catch the thought of the whole combination of words. Until this is possible, the exercise is only one in word-calling—not reading. If the child is free, unrestrained, he can express his ideas and feeling as well as anyone.

2. Assigning to different children parts of stories, dialogues, or poems in an aid in securing right expression. Occasionally the teacher may read one part of a story or dialogue while children take the other parts.

3. Children may be allowed, or asked, to read to the entire school. The reader stands before the school, while all give attention. He must read with expression in order that he may be understood, because the other children have no books open before them. At first, only the best readers should be allowed to read to the school, but the privilege should gradually be extended to every member of the school.

4. If any child expresses the notion that the reading may be improved, in whole or in part, allow him  to read the story or that part of it in question.

5. Dramatization is one of the best means for securing the right expression, even in middle grades. The stories of the "Free and Treadwell Readers" are especially suitable for dramatization by the children themselves. Different pupils may be required to take different parts in playing these stories and these plays, at different times, should include all of the members of the class, the slowest as well as the brightest.

6. Do not tolerate an unnatural tone of an affected manner. Insist on the childrenís "telling" their stories, not to the blackboard, nor to the books, but to the teacher, to some particular pupil, or to the entire group.

7. It is a mistake to keep a class too long on one lesson. It is better to go back to it after a time than to read that in which the pupil has lost interest.

8. Do not permit sing-song reading, drawling, shouting, or mumbling. Tone down  high pitched, shrill voices to a natural tone.

9. The voice should receive attention from the first and all proper effort should be made to help the child to control and improve it for expressing thought in his own or the authorís words. Drills for enunciation and articulation will be needed in every grade.

10. The teacher may read to the school. Sometimes, the story period is fixed immediately to follow the opening of the school sessions and, because of the childrenís interest, it becomes a strong, wholesome incentive to punctuality.

Helpful Materials

Certain materials for the use of the teacher and the pupils will be found very helpful when properly used. The publishers of the "Reading-Literature Readers" furnish these helps at a nominal price; but the teacher, if she will, can make for herself all of these and others that her experience will suggest. A description of these devices follows:

Perception Cards.  This set consists of one hundred sixty cards, each card containing one of the words taught in the primer. The cards may e used in teaching the new words of a story, in word drills and in testing quick recognition of words already taught. In using the cards for quick recognition, the teacher will stand before the class with the cards in her hands. These she will display, one at a time, for quick recognition. At first, this work should be done somewhat slowly, so that all children may have a part in the word recognition, but later, the drill should be rapid. In the beginning, but two or three of the cards will be used, but others will be added to the pack as the vocabulary increases.

These cards are 4 by 6 inches in size and they may be made by any teacher. This diagram shows the plan.


Pupilís Word Cards  These consist of a set of thirteen cards, each containing seventy words. These are the words of the primer and every word is repeated several times. The words are printed between lines so that they may be cut out along the lines, in uniform size. Thus every child may have all of the words of the primer repeated several times. They may be kept in envelopes or in small boxes, and are to be used by pupils in their seats in sentence building.

In the beginning, this sentence building will consist simply of following or copying sentences with the Primer open before the pupil. Later, sentences may be built from dictation.

Any teacher who has access to a typewriter can make these cards.

hen pig bread cat dog send wheat
found plant cut thresh grind make eat

Phonic Cards  These are a set of 21 cards, 4x6 inches in size, for the use of the teacher in drilling on the consonant elements. They are printed on both sides. On one side is the words containing the consonant, slightly separated from the phonogram. Just below is the consonant alone. On the reverse side of the card, the consonant is printed in both capital and lower case forms. The appearances of one of these cards is here shown.


The child knows the word "red" at sight. The teacher may first write or print the word on the blackboard, with the consonant slightly separated from the rest of the word. If the child does not, at first, readily recognize the word, a line may be made to connect its parts. When it is recognized, the line should be removed an the children led to say the parts of the word as they appear upon the blackboard. After a few such drills from the blackboard, with the first few words, the cards alone will suffice. The subsequent drill from the cards will be on the consonants alone, as they appear on the reverse side. In this drill, if the child does not readily recognize the consonant, the teacher may turn the card over and require him to work out the consonant from the word, as in the beginning. Drill on consonant elements should be daily and continuous until children are thoroughly familiar with them.

Working Plans

The stories used in these readers are worth lingering over and rereading, and the pupils should not be hurried through the books. The repetition, if at all lively and wide awake on the part of the teacher, is attractive to the child.

The stories are suitable as a real basis for many kinds of lessons, and this manual directs attention to the following:


1. Hearing and telling the stories.

2. Playing or dramatizing the situations when possible.

3. Memorizing stories and poems wholly or in part.


1. Blackboard sentences based on the stories.

2. Blackboard sentences based on dramatization.

3. The use of the book itself.

4. The use of mimeographed or printed words and sentences chosen from the vocabulary in the book.

5. The use of phonics all the time.


1. Illustrative—original drawings representing incidents.

2. Formal—tracing pictures, coloring outlines prepared by the teacher.

Clay and Sand Work

1. Modeling simple figures mentioned in the stories.

2. Staging the actors on the sand-table.

Nature Lessons

About animals and plants mentioned.

Room Decoration

Use of pictures and cuttings relating to the literature.


The varied lessons to which this manual directs attention have a twofold purpose:

First, to add to the childís general culture.

Second, to enrich the process of learning to read. Since reading involves more that is new and difficult to a child than anything else in the first year of school, most of this part of the manual is devoted to that subject.

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