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The original version, written just after the end of the Civil War, illustrates the expectations and values of the times in which it appeared. What is most striking to the modern teacher on perusing this volume is the level of vocabulary and comprehension difficulty which was considered normative for the fifth grader. Words like 'gossamer', 'clamorous' and 'benefactions' grace the very first page of the very first reading 'Achievements and Dignity of Labor". Values education was not the latest craze for teachers using this volume, it was assumed automatically and imbues every page with some 'gem of wisdom' not to be neglected.
The pages preceding the readings are devoted to the elements of phonetics, spelling, pronunciation and inflection considered essential to an educated child. Reading with expression was clearly a priority and, after studying the commentary on these topics, one can easily picture the teacher of the day stopping a student mid-sentence and instructing them on the correct voice tone and emphasis to place on each word. This may seem pedantic to the educators of the 2000's, but, in fact, was productive of better comprehension to the listeners at their desks, as well as the readers themselves, who, of course, were reading aloud.

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