McGuffey Readers

by lmj
October, 1998

McGuffey, William Holmes (1800-1873): American educator, born near Claysville, Pennsylvania. McGuffey is best remembered as compiler and editor of a series of primary school texts, the Eclectic Readers. The McGuffey Readers contained simple moral lessons and fables, poems, and extracts from American and English literature. The Readers passed through many editions and were used in more than 37 states.

Goals of the McGuffey readers: (a semi paraphrase from the study guides)

I) articulate speaking and fluent oral reading, II) reasoning with logic III) speaking with wisdom and grace.

-- At the grammar stage, we start with
1) phonics, 2) pronouncing the letters correctly in speaking, i.e. distinguishing "d"'s and "t"'s, pronouncing the -ing sound at the end of words, et.c. We work on 3) correct inflection when there is a ? or a ! as well as 4) reading with "feeling". 5) Around the 5th grade, short writing assignments for logic practise, 6) 8-10th grade includes both speech and debate practise, structuring your arguments with both logic and style. Completing these goals requires a small recital support group meeting about twice a year. Later,... participating in a science fair or talent night type exhibit... and eventually more of a speech/debate club.

Comments from homeschooling mothers using the McGuffey Readers:

"McGuffey does practise, practise, practise reading the same passage over and over. In year 1 and 2, you use the same lesson 2 weeks on a row. They are very short. The purpose is mastery of reading that short passage with FEELING and INFLECTION. Each year has different oratory skills and rules which are introduced during the year. In year 3 and up, one practises the same passage every day for a week. Betty Burger's version has a relevant Bible verse after each lesson (which we memorize) and extra study questions. The aim is ORATORY. All arguments,logic and rhetoric is based on moral Christian grounds. -- The study guide goes year for year, week by week, so it is EASY to follow."

"We just started using the McGuffy Readers this year. The boys read a chapter each day; then my 2nd grader copies a sentence and writes 3 spelling words that I dictate. My 4th grader copies a paragraph and they both draw a picture to go with the copy. My 2nd grader is in the Eclectic Pictorial primer, very simple but excellent in terms of reinforcement of phonic sounds. My 4th grader is in the 2nd Eclectic Primer, which is still very easy for him (he reads about 7th/8th grade level according to SATs), but he does enjoy the simpleness of the story. I appreciate the quality and character woven into the stories and the progression of difficulty in the stories. I am planning to use these to teach my almost 4 year old to read when the time comes. They seem to be a very complete phonics, reading, spelling program, especially with the parent guide that lays out each lesson."

"We go through one lesson every one or two weeks -- depending on how long the word list is. We use the word list for spelling lists and split it in two over two weeks if it is long. I read the lesson then my duaghter reads the lesson out loud for the first few days, then she just reads it. I thought that reading the same lesson for a week or two sounded pretty weird -- until the first spelling test! Her spelling has dramatically improved since we've followed this plan."

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