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In their first three school years, children have gained a working mastery of the mechanics of easy reading. This end has been reached largely through oral drill; and such method is proper as long as eye recognition of words is slower than speech. But in the fourth year the reverse of this becomes true. Speech is too slow a vehicle to keep pace with the growing conception of the eye, hence some silent reading on the part of the pupils must be introduced in a Fourth Reader, else their progress is retarded. This is the pedagogical problem peculiar to this grade.
SILENT READING. Teaching pupils to read silently naturally involves their exposure to plentiful reading materials. Such material as may be available in the supplemental reading sets, in school libraries, and elsewhere, should be used to encourage the habit of wide and general reading. The establishment of good reading habits is constantly to be kept in mind. To accomplish this and to lay properly the foundation for the important business of learning how to study, the teacher should undertake from time to time to test pupils on their speed, accuracy. and ability to gather the chief ideas of the author. Such work is easily made the basis of oral and written English, thus effecting that correlation of activities which all teachers recognize as especially desirable.
Silent reading is entitled to a large place in our teaching; but it certainly should not displace drill in oral reading, memorization, word study, or dramatization.
This Reader undertakes to provide desirable material for work in silent reading without losing sight of the other elements essential in a good Fourth Reader.
THE READING CONTENT. Most of the selections in this book are strongly narrative. Child interest can hardly be held by any other form of writing. The stories are both new and old; character and fitness of a piece, not the date of its production, governed the choice of the editor.
ARRANGEMENT BY GROUPS. There is an obvious advantage in grouping kindred reading materials in sections under captions such as “Out of Doors,” “Our Animal Friends,” etc. Besides affording some elements of continuity, the plan offers opportunity for comparison and contrast of the treatment of similar themes. It also insures a massing of the effect of the idea for which the section stands. Secondarily, the section divisions break up the solid text, and because of this the pupils feel at frequent intervals that they have completed something definite.
The groupings make no pretense to being mutually exclusive. On occasion a selection may well be transferred to another section. For example, the Washington and Columbus stories should be used in the proper season in “The Glad Holidays” section, although it is obvious why they belong primarily in “Our Own Country.” Teachers should have no hesitation in breaking across from one section to another when the occasion or the children's interest seems to warrant.
MECHANICAL FEATURES. Editor and publisher have spared no pains or expense to make this book attractive to children. The volume is not cumbersome or unwieldy in size. The length of line is that of the normal book with which they regularly will come into contact. The type is clean-cut and legible. The pictures are all drawn by artist specialists. Finally, enough white space has been left in the pages to give the book an “open,” attractive appearance. No single item has so much to do with children's future attitude toward books as the appearance of their school Readers.
WORD STUDY. Repeated attention throughout is called to the study of words: spelling, pronunciation, meaning, and use in sentences. This is an initial preparation for the use of an elementary dictionary, a copy of which every child should have on his desk the latter half of the fourth year — certainly at the beginning of the fifth year.
SOCIALIZED WORK. Opportunity for dramatization, committee work, and other team activity is presented repeatedly throughout the volume. Wherever the teacher can profitably get the pupils to work in groups, she should take advantage of the coöperative spirit.
CITIZENSHIP. This means more than the passing phase of so-called Americanization. It means a genuine love of country, a reverence for our pioneer fathers, a respect for law, order, and truth. This Reader is rich in patriotic content. It is hoped that the ethical element in the selections will be found to be forceful as well as pleasing. The book emphasizes throughout the worth of individual and social virtues.
MANUAL. The Teachers' Manual contains detailed lesson plans and pedagogical helps for each selection in this book; also an introductory article on the Teaching of Reading, which discusses Silent Reading (with detailed directions for speed tests), Oral Reading, Dramatization, Appreciative Reading, Memorizing, Word Study and Use of the Dictionary, Reading Outside of School, Use of Illustrative Material, and Correlation.