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I. THE PRIMER. — This contains a set of original lessons, from the alphabet to words of two syllables, so arranged as to be adapted to various methods of teaching little children to read ;— whether you begin with the letters, or begin by teaching words first, and then letters. It has also an entirely new series of lessons in articulation and the sounds of the letters, designed to be used orally with very young children. These lessons, it is believed, if properly employed, will train a child from the first into correct and proper habits of utterance, and even cure the habits of lisping, stammering, mumbling, and other defects of speech. These exercises are believed to be of much value.
II. Easy Lessons in Reading, for the use of the Younger Classes in Schools. This is substantially the old “Easy Lessons” of 1823, with a new introduction, adapted to the best modern methods of teaching, and a few new reading: lessons at the beginning. The body of the work is the same that many, who are now fathers and mothers, liked so well in their childhood. In the introductory part, the leading object in view was to promote a thorough training in the articulation of the consonant sounds, together with a general knowledge of intonation, inflection and emphasis.
III. READING Lessons, for the Middle Classes in Common Schools.—This is formed on the model of the preceding, but the pieces are calculated for scholars that are more advanced in general knowledge, as well as greater proficients in the art of reading. The spirit of the "Easy Lessons” is continued in this book, and it is adapted to carry the mind onward in the course of education. In preparing the elementary part, particular attention has been paid to the subject of intonation, and the formation of the voice, while the instructions in articulation, inflection and emphasis, are sufficiently full for use.
IV. SELECTIONS FOR READING AND SPEAKING, for the Higher Classes in Common Schools. The present volume has been prepared with great care, both in making up the elementary exercises, as well as in selecting the lessons for reading and speaking. If faithfully employed, by intelligent teachers, it will not fail to impart as much skill in elocution as can be reasonably expected from our Common Schools.
Some School Readers are furnished with a complete system of rules, minute and precise, for the tones, inflections, stress, and all other modulations of the voice, with elaborate dissertations on the most abstruse subjects in the science of elocution. But such a system of teaching is wholly impracticable in our Common Schools, for whose use this series of books is chiefly designed. Such a course of instruction may be practicable in some academies, as a part of a more finished education than can fall to the lot of the generality of our youth. Such a course ought to be employed in all colleges, for which there are proper works prepared, to teach the science and the practice of elocution. But for Common Schools, we require only a set of exercises for training the voice, with some general rules on other points, and must then leave it to the oral instructions of the teacher to produce a general habit of good reading, and to the good sense of the reader to dictate the particular modes of expression which each piece may require. By not attempting more than we can do, we shall succeed better in that which is practicable. Finished scholarship, in any branch of education, must be left for those who have the opportunity of becoming finished scholars.
It is not useful to put tools into the hands of one who cannot use them -or tools better than he can use. It has not been thought best to fill this book with such pieces as are calculated to bring out the highest style of reading, for the simple reason that few will be found, in our public schools, either teachers or scholars, who can do justice to such pieces, or profit by attempting them. More in accordance with the design of these books is the aim to furnish such lessons as will prevent the acquiring of bad habits, and will draw out and improve the ability of those who are, in the ordinary
sense, good readers. At the same time, there will be found not a few pieces of so high a character as will test the
powers of the most accomplished elocutionist.
Should my labors prove acceptable, I may hereafter add another book to the series, which will contain a larger number of pieces of this class, together with a full and comprehensive system of rules and instructions in elocution.
These books are designed to be used in succession, as the classes advance from the alphabet to the first class. But each book is so far complete, that it can be used to advantage by itself, or in connection with any other series of readers.
Two leading objects have been aimed at in preparing this Series of Readers. One was, to make such a selection of pieces as would lead to correct and impressive reading by those who have good voices under full command. The other was, to arrange a system of exercises, which would give increased power and compass to the vocal organs, and train them to state of perfect discipline.
The cultivation of the voice, as a part of the science of elocution, has hitherto attracted but little attention among us. A few able teachers, such as Porter, Goodrich, Bronson, Russell, and others, have taught a systematic cultivation of the voice, with gratifying
But it is plain that their instructions could reach only a few of the people who read, and who ought to know how to read well. It is equally plain that the labor of these professors would be greatly facilitated, and the beneficial results of their efforts would be much more widely diffused, if a portion of their systems of instruction could be successfully introduced into our Common Schools. Could children only be kept from acquiring awkward habits of speech, how much it would lessen the labor now required to train a class of young men in college; still more, if those processes of refining the voice, and giving the will a perfect control of the organs, which are purely mechanical, could be made familiar even to little children from the time they begin to learn the alphabet.
The culture of the voice has been pursued with success by the friends of musical improvement, such as Mason, Webb, and others. And it is surprising to find what improvements can be made, both in the power and compass of the voice, the sweetness and purity of its tones, and the capacity of using it with taste and effect. The friends of elocution ought to be equally strenuous for improvement. There is such a near relation between music and elocution, that both will be alike benefited by any general advance in vocal culture. Indeed, there is a perfect identity in the principles, and in most of the processes, wł ich are suited to train the vocal organs, both for music and for elocution.
The object of general education is to diffuse and equalize the advantages of knowledge. So the object of teaching elocution should be to render the benefits of this accomplishment more general. There will be some good readers in a community, through natural taste and quickness; just as there have always been orators without scientific instruction in rhetoric. There are some individuals, who, by reason of a natural pliability of voice, or through the influence of instruction, and especially of example at home, seem to read with gracefulness and force, by a natural impulse. But the great majority of persons, either by defective powers of voice, or bad habits early contracted, cannot obtain that command over the organs of speech, that compass and flexibility of the organs of speech, and that confidence in themselves and in their vocal powers, which are necessary to good reading, unless they are carried through a systematic course of training for that purpose. And yet there are few voices so bad, that they cannot, by cultivation, be rendered capable of reading and -speaking with good effect.
Capacious lungs, vigorous organs, high health, an energetic will, deep feeling, and quick susceptibilities, prepare the possessor to become a good reader spontaneously, as it were. But those whom nature has not endowed with these advantages, must acquire them by pains-taking and habit. The chest may thus be expanded, the voice deepened, the lungs strengthened, the organs of the mouth made quick and supple, the thick and husky, or pinched and dry tones rendered full, resonant and clear, and the taste cultivated for graceful and effective elocution.
Nor ought it to be forgotten, that the diligent cultivation and full development of the vocal organs must be greatly conducive to health and long life. Persons of consumptive habits, or with weak lungs, have been surprised at the improvement which even a few weeks' practice in such lessons has made in their general health, as well as in their capacity to endure fatigue without panting and exhaustion.
A good voice is judged by its volume, compass, firmness and endurance, in opposition to a voice that is small, narrow, weak and vanishing. In quality, it should be clear, sweet, even, musical and flexible, in opposition to a voice that is indistinct, harsh, cracked, monotonous and hard. Poor voices fall into a cantillating tone, as a relief from fatigue and exhaustion.