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the book more extensively adopted in the United States than any other, the English Reader, we have a series of grave didactic, and dry argumentative pieces, which a person of mature and cultivated understanding, might read with instruction and interest; but, which quite transcend the range of thought and information, ordinarily seen in children. Whatever is unintelligible, is necessarily uninteresting, and can only be read mechanically. The consequence is, that after using such a book for a few months, the pupil becomes fixed in a habit of reading with total inattention to the sense and spirit of the piece, and with a hum-drum monotony, that defies correction or change ever afterwards.
The first and indispensable requisite in a reading book is, that it be intelligible by the pupil; and the second, that the pieces be of a character to interest his feelings and engage his attention. These two points secured, another, of nearly equal importance, claims attention;--that the pieces be adapted to the cultivation and exercise of the voice, in all the variety of inflections and tones, which belong to just, natural, and impressive elocution.
To be a good reader, is to be capable of reading with propriety, every species of composition whatsoever. Hence, the importance of as great a variety in the matter selected as possible, affording the widest scope for varied modulation, and the expression of the numberless emotions and passions of the mind.
It is believed, that the intermixture of pieces of all the different kinds, and especially, the numerous select passages interspersed through this book, present a greater variety, and a selection better suited to the purposes of a reading book, than any compilation which has yet been published.
The select paragraphs, which are inserted at the end of the lessons, besides being well adapted to reading, convey some wholesome moral truth, or maxim of behavior; or,
are selected as striking and beautiful passages from celebrated authors. They have not, in general, any reference to the lessons under which they are placed.
In making the selections, the compiler has deemed it of little moment whether the pieces were old or new; American or English; circumstances to which some appear to attach great consequence. In regard to the first, every piece is new to beginners; and the fact of its being found in a long succession of school-books, is the best evidence of its merit. And in reference to the second, to reject a piece of acknowledged excellence, and suitableness for our purpose, merely because the writer happens to have been born on the other side of the Atlantic, would savor less of patriotism than of prejudice. The Class-Reader, however, will be found to contain a due proportion both of new, and American productions.
Artificial notation, to a limited extent, is, in the opinion of the Compiler, a useful help in learning to read; but if carried too far, it serves rather to perplex than to guide the scholar, and leaves too little scope for the exercise of his own taste and judgment.
In preparing the introductory lessons of this work, the Compiler has consulted extensively, Walker, Murray, and Professor Porter of the Andover Seminary, and is indebted to them for many examples contained in this book.
In affixing the mark of inflection, he has ventured, in one particular, to deviate from these high authorities, by placing it over the inflected syllable instead of the accented one. As the two things, are wholly distinct, and independent of each other, he could see no propriety in uniting them. Utility, however, rather than originality, was his aim; and some extension of the principles of inflection, and a better adaptation of the exercises under them to the use of academies and common schools, is nearly all of merit claimed for the original portion of this book.