The First Textbooks: The McGuffey Reader
Anna Harrison: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas
Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Four to five class periods
Anna Harrison, although growing up before there were very many public schools, nevertheless had an excellent education, educated her own ten children at home because they lived most of the children's growing-up years on the frontier (in Indiana!), and at one time founded a school in North Bend, Indiana.
It would have been a great help in those years if Anna Harrison had been able to use one or more of the McGuffey Readers, which began to be published in 1836. Perhaps, at some point, she did. These readers became standard texts for children from 1836 well into the 20th century, and millions of children moving west in covered wagons probably took along at least one McGuffey reader.
Students will be asked to consider the design and content of an early reading textbook, will compare it to the books they use for reading today, and will have an opportunity to design lessons in the style of lessons in one or more readers.
*If students to use a computer with pre-set formats, it will be easier to assemble the sections using a word-processor.
**You may want to assign one person from each group to design the layout of the lessons—a group of ‘editors’ for the book. Also, you will need a few students to ‘publish’ the reader.
When the new reader is completed, students may wish to share it with other classes at a similar level. The class may also want to be present to ‘teach’ the lessons in small groups with other students.
Sample pages of McGuffey Readers
Picture of First McGuffey ReaderCredits:
This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University.