Reading historical timeline
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Reading: Historical Timeline. By Laura Duell. Beginning of Reading Instruction. Egyptians developed symbols very early, about 4500 years ago Hornbooks are developed around the 13 th /14 th century. Hornbooks were books that served as primers for study. They consisted of:

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Reading: Historical Timeline

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Reading historical timeline

Reading: Historical Timeline

By Laura Duell

Beginning of reading instruction

Beginning of Reading Instruction

  • Egyptians developed symbols very early, about 4500 years ago

  • Hornbooks are developed around the 13th/14th century. Hornbooks were books that served as primers for study. They consisted of:

    • Sheet of paper (3 in x 4 in) fastened to thick paddle-shaped board

    • Translucent sheet of horn covered the paper to “save from fingers wet the letters faire.”

    • Narrow strip of metal on 3 sides with 4th open for changing sheet of paper

    • The first books developed were called Primers and were used exclusively for religious purposes for children

Religious emphasis in reading 1607 1776

Religious Emphasis in Reading:1607-1776

  • Religious motives controlled reading instruction

  • Purpose for learning to read was for children to have thorough grounding in their religious faith

  • The New England Primer became standardized reading textbook during colonial days

  • Spellers, whose function was to teach spelling plus reading, religion, and morals, competed with the New England Primer

  • Spellers foreshadowed change in reading pedagogy because they were a transition from religious text to more secular materials like stories, riddles, and dialogues

Nationalistic moralistic emphasis 1776 1839

Nationalistic-Moralistic Emphasis:1776-1839

  • Purpose of reading shifted from religious purposes to nationalism and moralism based on break w/ Great Britain

  • Reading now focused instead on building good character

  • Additional series of texts devoted entirely to moralistic content - proverbs, advice on good behavior, realistic stories with a lesson, poems exalting desirable qualities, & fables

    Reading now:

    1.) Purified the American language

    2.) Developed loyalty to the new nation

    3.) Instilled virtues/morals necessary for good citizenship

1880s 1910


  • First time reading materials other than those included in basic reader became popular practice

  • Reading in upper grades to the form of classical literature

  • Fairy tales popular for younger grades (like “The Three Bears” & “Jack & the Beanstalk”)

  • New techniques to arouse an appreciation of literature, usually for older children - involved defining and dissecting literature and began to move away from the elocutionary approach

Reading historical timeline

  • Basal readers changed-

    • Elocution lessons began to disappear

    • Moralist and information selections diminished

    • Mother Goose and folktales used for the first time

    • Cloth covers replaced cardboard covers

    • Colored pictures used for the first time

1910 1925


  • Period moved away from oral reading to silent reading and stressed meaning

  • First standardized tests in reading published in 1915

  • Reading instruction had to meet the needs of society; individual acquire efficient silent reading skills to meet the practical needs of life

  • Goal of reading instruction was “effective rapid silent reading” (Harry Grove Wheat, 1923)

  • Teacher’s Manuals came in to general use

  • Research on reading greatly expanded during this time because of standardized tests

1935 1950


  • The radio became a “threat” to reading

    • Fears that listening to the radio, viewing movies, and reading comics would reduce interest in reading

    • Media threatened reading

  • Development of the multiple-causation theory of reading disability (most important development in this period)

    • We begin to see reading specialists in schools

1950 1965 expanding knowledge and technological revolution

1950-1965: Expanding Knowledge and Technological Revolution

  • Content literacy became more important

  • Many more professional books on reading were published during this time

  • More nationalities and ethnicities reflected in readers of the time

  • More and more studies looked at the social nature of reading and the social influences that impact reading

  • Reading readiness materials:

    • Placed heavy emphasis on language ability/skills

    • Involved visual and auditory discrimination, sequencing, and sometimes kinesthetic exercises

1965 present


  • Goal of reading should be comprehension

  • Instruction should begin with meaningful reading grounded in children’s lived experiences and interests

  • Sight words learned first

  • Phonics instruction should be emphasized, but contexualized, not isolated

  • Skill instruction

  • Controlled vocabulary in texts for mastery/repetition

  • Readiness programs

  • Small group work - reading groups

Reading historical timeline

  • Basals shifted in the 1990s:

    • “Basalized” the activities and tools of whole language

    • Placed integrated approaches at forefront

    • Repositioning of skills – foregrounding one component while backgrounding another while creating optional components or modules

  • Other shifts:

    • Growing dissatisfaction with extreme positions

    • Changing research ideology

    • Politicization of reading research and policy agenda

    • Producing measurable results

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