The Evolution of Reading Motives Throughout U.S. History and Key Texts that Defined Them

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    Religion as the Primary Motive for Literacy

    The early U.S. settlers who migrated from England where, as a whole, "deeply religious" and strived to continue educating children to read through religious texts and materials, just like they learned back in England (Smith, 2002, p. 11).
  • The Old Deluder Act

    The Old Deluder Law (1647) states "It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures" and that "It is therefore ordered that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read."
  • Hornbooks

    The hornbook is an example of the first type of text used to teach children to read in the U.S. It's purpose was twofold: for catechizing in church and for reading instruction in school. Hornbooks were often constructed of a wooden paddle with a sheet of printed paper attached to it. A thin slice of horn was used to cover the sheet so it wouldn't get smudged (Smith, 2002, p. 6-15).
  • The New England Primer Publishes

    The New England Primer Publishes
    The first text designed specifically for reading instruction in the U.S. was The New England Primer. Content of The New England Primer consisted of the alphabet, vowels, consonants, double letters, italics and capitals. Next came the syllabarium, ranging from 2-6 syllables. Religious alphabet verses, The Lord's Prayer, and the Creed, along with popular verses were also included in the text (Smith, 2002, p. 22).
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    Patriotism and Moral Expectations as the Primary Motive for Literacy

    Smith (2002) states that "the foremost goal of the state was that of building national strengh and makeing good citiznes." Reading content shifted "to purify the American language; to develop loyalty to the new nation, its traditions and institutions, its occupations and resources; and to inculcate the high ideals of virtue and moral behavior which were consdidered so necessary a part of the general program of building good citizenship" (p. 34).
  • The American Spelling Book Publishes

    The American Spelling Book Publishes
    Noah Webster publishes The American Spelling Book, also known as the "Blue-Back Speller." The American Spelling Book contained 29 pages of moral advice, a common inclusion during this time period (Smith, 2002 p. 41-42).
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    Bible Literacy and Liberating Literacy/Negotiation as Motives for Reading

    In discussing how slaves in the antebellum South learned to read, Cornelius (1983) states that it was believed "even the poor and powerless should be able to read the word of God for themselves" (p. 171). Also within this time frame, the U.S. govenment sponsored the Choctaw Indian Academy in an attempt to provide sons of Indian Chiefs the education to be able to participate in negotiations between the U.S. government and their respective Indian Tribe (Pitcock, 2000, p. 390).
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    Cultivating Intelligent Citizenship as the Primary Motive for Literacy

    During this time period, there was a major focus in creating intelligent citizens who would be able to think independently and make informed decisions. It was assumed that educated citizens, also potential voters, would be able to make "right" voting choices with appropriate education (Smith, 2002, p. 70).
  • The American Spelling Book Part 2

    The American Spelling Book Part 2
    In the 1800's, long after Webster's, The American Spelling Book, published, slaves documented using the text to learn to read whenever they were lucky enough to come into contact with a copy. "We slips around and gits hold of dat Webster's old blue back speller and hides it 'tul way in de night and den we lights a little pine torch and studies (Cornelius, 1983, p. 181). Coincidentally, or not, this text was also among the list of texts used at the Choctaw Indian Academy (McMillan, 1950, p. 60)
  • McGuffy's Readers Publish

    McGuffy's Readers Publish
    William McGuffy is noted as the first author to create a series of readers consisting of one reader for each grade at the elementary school level. The content of the readers shifts to material about children and animals, replacing most of the religious and moral content of previous decades (Smith, 2002, p. 99-101).
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    Cultural Development as Motive for Reading

    During this time period, a cultural shift towards literature, music, and art occurred as the U.S. settled into a comfortable state of being a new nation. The motive was to provide an overall sense of interest in various cultural subjects (Smith, 2002, p. 108).
  • Basal Readers

    Basal Readers
    Readers of the Cultural Development time period evolved to include Mother Goose rhymes in the early readers and literary selections in the readers for later grades. Ward's Readers and Beacon's Readers are two examples of readers within this time period (Smith, 2002, p. 126-130).
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    Scientific Investigation and Intensive Research as Primary Motive for Reading

    During this time we see a significant shift from teaching oral to silent reading as the predominatory means of reading. This change came about from research, most notably from Francis W. Parker and Dr. Edmund Huey, who began to distingush the difference between the two types of reading. Research conducted during this time determined that reading silently was better for both increased reading speed and comprehension (Smith, 2002, p. 149-151).
  • The Silent Readers Publish

    The Silent Readers Publish
    William Dodge Lewis and Albert Lindsay Rowland were the first authors to publish a full set of readers devoted to silent reading. The lower level books contained material related to "child life" while the upper level books contained mostly "realistic fiction"; every lesson in each reader contained exercises before or after the passages (Smith, 2002, p. 165-168).
  • Preprimers are Created

    Preprimers are Created
    Preprimers are created as a way to to prepare students to read their primer and contained new words that they would see in future readers (Smith, 2002, p. 201).
  • Supplemental Texts

    Supplemental Texts
    The use of supplemental texts increased during this time period and as Smith (2002) states "supplemental books never before had been so abundant, so beautiful, or so varied in content" (p. 197). An example of a supplemental text of the time that is still popular today is Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag.
  • The Work-Play Books Publish

    The Work-Play Books Publish
    Arthur Gates creates a series comprised of a primer, six readers, and a workbook to accompany each reader. The idea behind the Work-Play series was to divide the program into aquiring skills and enjoyging multiple types of literature. This series contained 112 realistic stories, which represented the bulk of readers at the time (Smith, p. 206-209).
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    International Conflict as Primary Motive for Reading

    During this period we see several concerns recycle. With WWII, we see a new emphasis on materials that focus on nationalism, a resurgence from the 18th and 19th centuries. There was also a rediscovery that many of the men in service couldn't read well enough to comprehend printed instrucitons. A re-emphasis on systematic reading instruction is placed in the classroom in order to combat lack of reading ability among many youth (Smith, 2002, p. 249-251).
  • The Ginn Basic Readers Publish

    The Ginn Basic Readers Publish
    Authored by David Russell and colleagues, the Ginn Basic Readers focused on "vertical arrangement" to ensure "continuity in skill development" across grade levels (Smith, 2002, p. 265). The series provided a systematic reading instruction and consisted of two reading readiness books, which was a new introduction during this time period. Other materials included three preprimers, a primer, a first reader, two second readers, and two third readers (Smith, p. 258, 264).
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    Expanding Knowledge and Technological Revolution as Primary Motives for Reading

    During this time period, we see the nature of the workforce changing, with machines replacing manpower. Consumerism rises as a result of new technologies. In addition, there was an increasing desire to improve national education, sparked by the Russian launch of Sputnik. All of these factors caused the president of the time, John F. Kennedy, to take an "undprcedinted interest in education" (Smith, 2002, p. 291).
  • Readers Compensate for Individual Differences

    Readers Compensate for Individual Differences
    During this time period, we see many readers publish that account for individual differences. Examples include: Wide Horizons readers for above average students, The Open Highways Program for students below grade level and The New Basic Reading Program for the Sixties, which contained a multi-ethnic edition (Smith, 2002, p.321). Most readers of the time continued to use the look-say approach, which consisted of stories that used high frequency site words.
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    Linguists and Psycholinguists Shape Motives for Reading-Period of Natural Learning

    Linguist Noam Chomsky held the view that children learn to read naturally. Interwined with this idea, was the idea from psycholinguists Kenneth Goodman and Frank Smith that reading was a concept that individuals learned on thier own and didn't need to be taught Alexander & Fox, 2013, p. 13).
  • Caldwell Reading Program-Established in the early 1970's

    The Caldwell Reading Program (CRP) was founded by Dr. Edward C. Caldwell as a result of experiencing first hand one of the adolescent students in his class couldn't read. The CRP uses the linguistic approach to teach reading by using a computer generated program that focuses on teaching the words and word units with the highest frequency of consistencies within the English language (Caldwell,
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    Cognitive Psychology Shapes Motive for Reading-Period of Information Processing

    Cognitive psychology fueled motives for reading during this time period. The information-processing theory replaced the naturalist theory. Now it was thought that individuals possessed the prior knowledge to make sense of what they read on a page. The shema theory, derived from the information-processing theory, was born and "remains one of the hottest topics" in reading history (Alexander & Fox, 2013, p. 13).
  • Readers from the mid-70's to the mid-80's

    Basal readers during this time frame added more pedagogy that focused on comprehension and activating shema, such as K-W-L charts, which helped readers use prior knowledge to make sense of and anticipate what they were about to read (Smith, 2002, p. 444).
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    Period of Sociocultural Learning

    Social and cultual anthropologists during this time period began to study learning and literacy in the context of groups, instead of individuals, as in the previous decade. The focus of learning and literacy was "a collaborative experience" where each member of the group contributed his or her viewpoints (Alexander & Fox, 2013, p. 17).
  • Literature-Based Reading Takes Off

    During the late 80's and early 90's we see a shift to do away with adaptaions and excerpts of literature and opt for the entire chapter or text. Literature circles were also big during this time period, which tie in with the sociocultural aspect of being a reader within a group of community (Smith, 2002, p. 445).
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    Period of Engaged Learning

    Starting in the mid-1990's up to the present time, the focus in literary research has been in the use of non-linear, online texts, as well as using motivation as a tool for encouraging positive literacy experiences (Alexander & Fox, 2013, p. 21).
  • New Literacies Start to Gain Recognition

    Nonlinear texts, eBooks, online blogs and discussion boards are all a part of this new literacy environment we are transitioning into. While print is still the predominant method of reading in traditional classrooms, new literacies are being incorporated into the curriculum at a steady pace.