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The passages contained in these Reading-Books have, with very few exceptions, been taken from the works of Standard Authors. The aim of the Editor in selecting them has been to gratify the tastes of his readers, to awaken their sympathies, and to cultivate in various directions their latent interest in Life and Nature. Of all the subjects that are taught in our Elementary Schools, Reading has always seemed to him to be by far the most important. The formation of a good style of reading is an object of a teacher's ambition as desirable in itself as it is unquestionably difficult of attainment. But what is accomplished on the way to this end is of even greater consequence than the end itself. If reading is to be properly taught, it is absolutely essential that the children should be interested in what they read ; and if their interests are to be successfully cultivated, their sympathies must be awakened and their faculties called into play. Indeed, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say, that whatever teaches a good style of reading tends to educate the mind, and conversely, that whatever educates the mind tends to produce a good style of reading.
Thus there are two objects, and two only, which are directly aimed at in these Reading-Books. To form a good style of reading is the first. To educate the mind of the reader is the second. Incidentally, however, they will no doubt serve other purposes than those for which they are specially intended. For example, though they do not profess to teach Spelling, Composition, Geography, History, or Physical Science, it will be found that as a matter of fact they will teach each of these subjects, and teach it, as far as they go, in the most effectual manner possible. They will teach Spelling by supplying the children with a rich and varied vocabulary, which will be constantly before their eyes. They will teach Composition by providing them with a number of models from the works of the best masters, - models on a variety of subjects and in a variety of styles. They will teach Geography and History by interesting the children in places, persons, and events; and so preparing the way for a more systematic treatment of these subjects. “And, speaking generally, they will so far serve the interests of Science, as to impart an abundance of miscellaneous information, and in doing this they will have the twofold advantage-(1) of imparting what will awaken and sustain interest, and so be readily remembered; (2) of presenting it in such a way as to impress it upon the mind.
In the selection of Poetry, particular pains have been taken to provide each Standard in turn with a repertory of passages suitable both for Reading and Recitation (New Code, Art. 109 (f.) (iv.); Schedule II.). The Poems—which are for the most part complete in themselves—have been carefully chos from the work the best authors; and inasmuch as they deal with suitable subjects, and are written in simple and tuneful metres, it is hoped that they will become favourites with children as well as with teachers, and that in this way the meaning of each piece will be readily entered into, and the lines easily learnt by heart.
The Explanatory Matter has been placed at the end of each book, so that the teacher may at least have the option of reserving it for his own use. The Editor is of opinion that written explanations fail as a rule to make any lasting impression on the minds of children. He therefore ventures to suggest that the teacher who may find it convenient to consult the Appendices, should digest the information contained in them, and then reproduce it in his own language for the benefit of his pupils.
The Appendices are three in number(a) Explanatory Notes. — These notes, which are chiefly Geographi
cal or Historical, are placed in the order in which the corresponding allusions occur. The number of the page is specified, and also the number of the note when there are
more than one on the same page. (6) A Glossary of Rare, Technical, or Difficult Words. — The
words in this Glossary are arranged in alphabetical order. Definition, in the scientific sense of the word, has not been attempted. An attempt has, however, been made in every case to carry the student by a direct and easy route from the
unknown to the known. (c) Biographical Notes. — Authors only have been treated of in
this Appendix. The first Appendix contains a few short Biographical Notices of the distinguished men who happen to be mentioned in the Reading Lessons. The Editor is deeply grateful to the many Authors, Publishers, and legal representatives of deceased Authors, who have generously allowed him to make extracts from copyright works. In particular, he desires to express his acknowledgment to Mr. J. Ruskin for Aspects of Clouds, Grass, Lichens and Mosses, Office of the Mountains, Aspects of Northern and Southern Countries, and The Virtues of Language ; to Cardinal Newman for The Function of a University, and What is Literature ? to Mr. Alfred Austin for Thoughts in Mid-Channel ; to Mr. Lewis Morris for The Birth of Verse; to Mr. Edward Dowden for an extract from his Essay on Shakespeare ; to Mr. B. Jowett for his translation of the Funeral Oration (by Thucydides); to Messrs. Macmillan for William Pitt and The Venerable Bede (both by J. R. Green); to Messrs. Longmans & Co. for How England became a Nation (by Lord Macaulay); to Mr. Milman for Mohammedanism; its Birthplace and its Founder, The Crescent and the Cross, The Crusades, and Gothic Architecture (all extracts from the works of the late Dean Milman); to Mr. Robert Browning for The Forced Recruit (a poem by the late Mrs. Barrett Browning); and to Mr. Hugh Miller for Geological Physiognomy (an extract from his father's works).
(The Italics indicate Poetry.)