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AMERICAN CLASS-READER ;
A SERIES OF LESSONS
PARTICULATION, INFLECTION, EMPHASIS,
OTHER ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS
CORRECT NATURAL ELOCUTION;
ACADEMIES AND COMMON SCHOOLS.
BY GEORGE WILLSON.
PUBLISHED AND SOLI, WHOLESALE AND RETAIL, BY
C. MORSE HOLD ALSO BY COLLIN KEESE & CO., N. & J. WHITE, AND LEAVITT, LORD & CO., NEW YORK ; OLIVER STEELE, AND W. C. LITTLR,
ALBANY; AND BENNET & BRIGHT, UTICA.
ENTERED, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1836. b George Willson, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Northern District of New York.
In the course of several years' employment as an instructer of youth, the Compiler has had occasion to examine most of the many reading-books published in this country for the use of the more advanced pupils in our public schools. Although the selections are, in the main, of great excellence as literary productions, and unexceptionable in their moral tendency, he has thought most of them deficient in other requisites of equal importance for the purpose intended. Among these deficiencies, is the want of systematic instruclions as to the proper manner of reading, and of suitable exercises in what may be termed the elements of the art, as articulation, inflection, emphasis, &c. Such instructions, if there have been any at all, have usually been inserted in a part of the book, where they were never studied by the pupils, and but rarely consulted by the teacher.
In the present compilation, the rules and exercises designed to guide the learner to a correct manner and just taste in reading, are embodied in regular lessons, and placed at the beginning of the book.
With a view to add to the interest of this book, and thereby engage the attention of the scholar, variety in the subjects selected has been particularly studied. The besetting fault of readers is monotony; a manner almost sure to be induced and confirmed by the continued reading of any one kind of style or subject. This tendency to mechanical vocal habits, can be counteracted only by judicious instruction, and by the utmost variety in the style and character of the pieces read.
The objection of most weight against many of the readingbooks now in use is, that they are unsuited to the age, taste, and attainments of learners. If we take, for example,
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 unin. teresting, 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 'toice, 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 maxiin 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
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.