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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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The First Reading Lesson

by Charlotte Mason
Volume 1, 1890/91, pgs. 131-133


[Formatter's note: This text didn't transfer very well, but this article appears in Home Education, Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason's series, starting on pg 207]

Susanna Wesley used to retire to her room with the child who was to have his first reading-lesson, and not to appear again for some hours, when the boy came out able to read a good part of the first chapter of Genesis? Well, Bobbie's first reading lesson was a solemn occasion too, for which we had been preparing for a week or two. First, I bought a dozen penny copies of the "˜History of Cock Robin'""good bold type, bad pictures, that we cut out.

"Then, we had a nursery pasting day""pasting the sheets on common drawing paper""six one side down, and six the other; so that, now, we had six complete copies, and not twelve.

"Then, we cut up the first page only, of all six copies, line by line, and word by word. We gathered up the words and put them in a box, and our preparations were complete.

"Now for the lesson. Bobbie and I are shut in by ourselves in the morning room. I always use a blackboard in teaching the children. I write up, in good clear "˜print' hand

Cock Robin.

Bobbie watches with the more interest because he knows his letters. I say, pointing to the word, "˜cock robin,' which he repeats. "Then, the words in the box are scattered on the table, and he finds half-a-dozen "˜cock robins' with great ease.

"We do the same thing with "˜sparrow,' "˜arrow,' "˜said,' "˜killed,' "˜who,' and so on, till all the words in the verse have been learned. The words on the blackboard grow into a column, which Bob reads backwards and forwards, and every way, except as the words run in the verse. "Then Bobbie arranges the loose words into columns like that on the board.

"Then, into columns of his own devising, which he reads off. "Lastly, culminating joy, (the whole lesson has been a

Volume 1, page 132, The First Reading Lesson

"Then, I had still one unmutilated copy, out of which Bob had the pleasure of reading the verse, and he read it forwards and backwards. So long as he lives he will know those twelve words." "No doubt it was a pleasant lesson; but, think of all the pasting and cutting!"

"Yes, that is troublesome. I wish some publisher would provide us with what we want""nursery rhymes, in good bold type, with boxes of loose words to match""a separate box, or division, for each page, so that the child may not be confused by having too many words to hunt amongst. The point is that he should see, and look at, the new word many times, so that its shape becomes impressed on his brain."

" see; but he is only able to read "˜Cock Robin;' he has no general power of reading."

"On the contrary, he will read those twelve words wherever he meets with them. Suppose he learns ten words a day, in half-a- year he will have at least six hundred words; that is, he will know how to read."

"Excellent, supposing your children remember all they learn. At the end of a week, mine would remember "˜Cock-robin' perhaps, but the rest would be gone!"

"Oh, but we keep what we get! When we have mastered the words of the second verse, Bob runs through the first in the book, naming words here and there as I point to them. It takes less than a minute, and the ground is secured."

"The first lesson must have been long?"

"I'm sorry to say it lasted half-an-hour. The child's interest tempted me to do more than I should."

"It all sounds very attractive""a sort of game""but I cannot be satisfied that a child should learn to read without knowing the powers of the letters. You constantly see a child spell a word over to himself, and then pronounce it; the more so, if he has been carefully taught the sounds of the letters-not merely their

Volume 1, page 132, The First Reading Lesson

" suppose the "˜word-building' would be, practically spelling with you? But you must tell me about that another day. Anyway, I shall try your plan, but shall keep the children up in the sounds of the letters all the same. Thus, they will have "˜two strings to their bow."

THE EDITOR