Abbildungen der Seite

the places where they are kept are so constructed and managed that the poor-houses are most corrupt and corrupting. They are nearly as injurious in their influence as the old penitentiaries-not in the arts of mischief, but in the low and corrupting vices. There is sometimes not even a separation of the sexes. We might specify large and extensive establishments, which are now what the old alınshouse in Boston was a few years ago. And we could give a detail of facts, which have been ascertained from careful examination of witnesses, to which we can only allude in this place, on account of the character of these facts. Suffice it to say, that they are such as to demand immediate attention from the towns and the state: The people of the towns would not countenance such things if they were known, and the state would not appropriate its thousands annually for the support of establishments, which are nuisances as much as the old state-prison. They are nurseries of vice; they are sometimes introductory to, and sometimes receptacles from the prison; there is often an alternation from almshouse to prison, and from prison to almshouse. We have not stated the facts in detail which are known to us, nor shall we do it in this place and at this time; but if the character of the establishment is not altered, from which these facts are gathered, they will be exposed in their naked depravity. Publicity will correct the evils, if other means fail'

The conclusion then to which we are led by the foregoing evidence seems to be, that wherever in this country education has had fair play-has had its operation uninfluenced by disturbing forces, the effect has been positively beneficial to all classes; but that there is no hope of obtaining such a result generally, until a general and efficient improvement shall have taken place in the administration of the

the poor laws.

ON TEACHING READING. The early instruction of children is a subject deserving of all the attention which it has received from some of the most profound thinkers. During the last few years various alterations, and, in some instances, improvements, have been proposed upon the old plan of teaching reading. The success of these attempted reforms has been comparatively trifling, either from teachers being the last to learn, or from the public being averse to innovations, however plausible in appearance. It is certainly an undeniable fact, that we see around us, if not the horn-books of the last century, at least the same machinery by which the memory was drilled into the names of letters and words in the dark ages.

On the National, and other popular systems of education, twelve precious months are still required for teaching children to read. In private schools and families, as much time is spent in attaining the same object. Why bad plans should oppose such a barrier to change and improvement, when more rational systems are proposed, it is not now our purpose to examine, any further than may be incidentally necessary to the elucidation of the method which we propose for simplifying the mode of imparting a knowledge of written language to children.

In all communities there are a few minds considerably in advance of the many ; a few who will think and act for themselves, in spite of the trammels imposed by custom. The prevalent errors on the subject of which we are about to treat have been long felt by solitary individuals. Evidence enough is at hand that improvements on the old system of teaching reading have taken place, and some few fortunate children have been initiated into language, without undergoing the toil of the alphabet and the spelling-book. But these are rare exceptions; the infant mind is still generally committed, during the first years of its intellectual existence, to the tender mercies of the dame and the schoolmaster, who preside over its progress with a book in one hand, and a rod in the other. The reluctance of mankind to adopt shorter methods of acquiring knowledge originates in a spirit as unenlightened, as that which opposes itself to improvements in the machinery of our manufactures. A portion of the community, it must be allowed, who were not unfriendly to the more rapid progress of their children in the elements of knowledge, would have yielded to their better convictions, had they not been afraid of upsetting the infant's vehicle, by attempting to conduct it over a path never travelled by themselves. From this, and various other causes, the art of teaching to read has been as nearly stationary as possible, and it is much to be feared, that, unless a powerful conviction can be created, of its unfitness for the purposes of popular instruction, the minds of children must still continue to struggle in the fetters of an antiquated and ill-adapted system.

An attempt will be made in the present article to show how a child may be taught to read, with less trouble and anxiety to the teacher, and with more improvement and pleasure to the taught, than is generally found to accompany such a progress. The suggestions relative to the first stages of instruction will be found in some measure applicable to infant schools, and those referring to the more advanced stagelearning to read, will be equally applicable to the other schools for the young.

It is no uncommon thing to be introduced to some prodigy

of learning in a family, the two or three-years-old pet of some good-natured aunt, or perhaps nearer relative, and to be invited to pass judgment on his acquirements after witnessing an exhibition of his abilities—these acquirements often amounting to a very perfect knowledge of the twenty-six letters, a repetition of verses, and a catechismal examination on the Scriptures-all learned by rote. Some well-meaning persons, not versed in such matters, have frequently marred such exhibitions by ill-timed interference and cross-examinations, equally offensive to both child and parent. The sensible visiter will allow such scenes to pass before him in silence; the early age of the child forbids us to suppose that he understands all that he has been taught to repeat,

The present mode of teaching the art of reading is not more defective as an instrument for unfolding the capacities of the intellect, than for communicating the knowledge and pronunciation of words. An imperfect utterance is almost universal in the young, for want of the application of a few simple corrective principles. By well-adapted exercises, and careful repetitions, the pronunciation of most children of three years' old may be made almost perfect. Inattention to this in early years is the cause of much of the defective utterance that we observe in youth, and in grown up persons.

A child's manner of speaking is too much disregarded ; if it be intelligible, it is deemed sufficiently correct to pass current. The imperfection being no great obstacle to its progress in knowledge, it is thought that, as the child grows older, the evil will correct itself. Like other errors, which, from being unnoticed at first, settle into vices, this evil sometimes produces a faulty habit of speaking which can never be eradicated. By patient care on the part of the teacher, this defect is often very much modified, and in many instances removed, but that this is not always the case the immense number of imperfect speakers bears ample evidence; and if there is a possibility of preventing such impediments by early attention to a child's pronunciation, it is surely better to attain this certain good, which may be attained without trouble or annoyance to the child, than to force it to utter words above its comprehension, and to dole out sounds which nobody can understand.

It is not to be supposed that stammering can always be prevented by early care. Sometimes this affection proceeds from mental excitement, and sometimes from organic defects; even in such cases the evil may be considerably diminished by a proper treatment at the time of its first appearance.

Correct pronunciation is the first thing to be attended to in the education of children, and childhood is the period most suitable to its attainment. When too volatile to apply its mind to books, a child will receive much pleasure in being talked to, and in being heard to talk; and no one will deny that this is a more rational way of occupying the thoughts, than, for it to be employed in poring over the forms of the letters, and attaching sounds to them, of which it cannot conceive the meaning.

The names of objects should be taught simultaneously with pronunciation, care being taken that the utterance is in all cases full and distinct. It will not be necessary to classify all words according to their syllabic formations, such a classification being only necessary with words which the child utters imperfectly. The l, the w, the d, the r, and the y are often difficult letters for a child to pronounce : table is called tabin ; elephant, a-yephant; wood, vood; dog, gog; thabbit or yabbit; yesterday, thesterday, &c. In all such instances of mis-pronunciation, words should be selected containing the unpronounceable letter, which should be very deliberately articulated in its different combinations, the child being made to observe the different position of the organs of speech, as different sounds are produced. We cannot refrain from giving one instance which we recently observed, showing the facility with which infant pronunciation is corrected. d child of about two and a half


old called a stick, a kick. Being desired to pronounce it again, kick was again repeated. She was desired to imitate the low, hissing sound of s, as used in this combination, which she did correctly; the sound of t was also clearly uttered, both singly and preceded by the s; the termination ick followed, also correctly: so that it was clear that the child could pronounce separately all the sounds composing the word, and that there was no real impediment to the pronunciation of the whole word. The word was then deliberately uttered, the sounds of the s and t being lengthened, and the child being made to observe the position of the organs during the utterance. The effect of this dissection was, that the child repeated the word quite distinctly many times in succession.

It is unnecessary in what must be merely the outline of a plan to enumerate the varieties of combinations in which difficult letters are to be discovered, and the means by which such difficulties may be removed. The instructor will readily apply the principle, and extend it to those sounds which are most difficult to acquire. There is a wide diversity in the facility of speech among children; some will stumble at sounds which to others will be quite easy.

The natural habits of children, so to speak, must be the key to their first instruction. A child begins to observe very soon after its birth; for the first two or three years its knowledge is almost confined to those objects which are evident to its senses; its methods of acquiring such knowledge are well worth consideration. The child sees an object, reaches towards it, grasps it, applies it to its mouth, endeavours to produce sound by striking it against a table, or anything else that is near; and thus acquires some knowledge of the properties of things, even before it can speak. By a process similar to this, different parts of knowledge may be conveyed to a child in a more advanced stage. When a child has learned to pronounce words, we may teach the names of those properties already familiar to him, and proceed to illustrate, to generalize, and to extend his knowledge by various examples.

For children from three to six years of age, we know of none so good as oral exercises on the names and properties of bodies. The world of nature and art will furnish a never failing supply of examples. Pictures will materially assist in such exercises; a slate and pencil will also help to amuse and instruct. Books, reading and spelling, should not, in our opinion, be introduced at this early stage. Careful pronunciation, and correct oral language, should always accompany these primary lessons. Form, magnitude, weight, colour, number, sound, are the chief developements to be made during the infancy of the mind. Instruction in these may be imparted without books. Few situations are unfavourable to the growth and expansion of the youthful intellect by the analysis of objects; the rooms of a house, the garden, field, wood, road, will all supply materials well adapted for this purpose.

To explain the kind of lessons which it is proposed to substitute for the present very unsatisfactory modes of commencing a young child's education, the following examples are given; from which it will be seen that a person of very moderate attainments may both amuse and instruct a child of three or four years old.

Teacher. What covers the floor of the parlour?—Child. A carpet. T. What colours do you observe on the carpet ?-C. Red, blue, brown, yellow, green, &c. T. Bring me your slate. What shape do

call this? (drawing a circle.)-C. Round. Other figures are drawn, and their names told to the child. T. Now tell me the shape of the carpet ?-C. It is oblong. T. What else in the room is oblong ?-C. The windows, that table, &c. T. Which is larger, the carpet or the door?—C. The carpet. T. Which is larger, the carpet or the floor ? Now look round every part of the floor.-C. The carpet


« ZurückWeiter »