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CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER once said, “ To teach a child to read, and not teach it what to read, is to put a dangerous weapon into its hands."
There can be no doubt as to the truth of this statement. High schools now very generally have courses in reading and literature; but the great majority of pupils never reach the high school, and those who do have formed a taste for reading before that period, very often a taste for reading that is decidedly bad, and only occasionally for that which is really excellent; so that in this particular the work of the high school becomes largely that of reformation, instead of formation, a very difficult work that need not have been necessary.
This procedure utterly ignores the needs, so far as the study of literature is concerned, of ninety per cent of the pupils, and begins the work too late with the others. To some extent desultory work is being done in many primary and grammar schools through the use of supplementary readers; but this cannot be very effective in forming a taste for good reading, because the expense necessary to provide a sufficient amount and variety of books will be so great that few schools can meet it, and still fewer will. Too often the supplementary readers used are intended merely to furnish information. As the result of this condition of affairs, with the exception of here and there a school, no effective effort is being made to create and foster a taste for good literature in grades below the high school. Much supplementary reading is being done, but there seems to be no clearly defined plan, no definite end aimed at.
This is probably due to the fact that there is no series of readers well adapted to the carrying on of this work. The compiler of this series has attempted to meet this want. The selections are carefully made and graded, and are believed to be those suited to the age and maturity of the pupils for whom they are intended. They are all good of their kind, and it is believed that the selection of trashy matter on the one hand, or matter beyond the comprehension of the pupils on the other, has been avoided.
Each volume of the series has been made with a definite purpose in view, and in each will appear a brief statement in regard to the selections made and the end aimed at. There will be such notes and explanations as seem to be necessary. This series can be used to an excellent advantage in teaching children how to read, but it should be borne in mind that the primary purpose of the series is to teach what to read, to create and foster a taste for good literature; therefore many selections, for which room cannot be found, will be suggested, to aid in directing the out-of-school reading of the pupils. It is hoped that teachers will encourage pupils to form little libraries of their own. Many suggestions will be made that will aid in such work.
The selections from Longfellow, Lowell, Whittier, Holmes, Warner, and Cary are made by arrangement with and permission of Houghton, Mifflin & Co., the authorized publishers of these authors. Thanks are due and are hereby extended to Harper & Brothers for selections from Curtis and Clemens; J. B. Lippincott Company for selection from Prescott; Fords, Howard, and Hulbert for selections from Beecher; Scott, Foresman & Co. for selection from B. F. Taylor; Dr. Everett for selection from Edward Everett; Lee & Shepard for selections from Wendell Phillips; D. Appleton & Co. for selections from Bryant.
TO THE READER
This volume introduces you to some of the best literature in the language. It comes at a time when your taste for reading is rapidly maturing. Your reading will largely control your thinking, and your thinking will control your life.
Exercise is the law of growth. This is true of mental and moral, as well as physical, growth. There can be no growth without exercise, nor can there be exercise without growth, and the character of the exercise will determine the character of the growth.
You can choose your reading as you will. You can determine the kind of life you will lead, though you may not be able to determine the degree of your success.
What you read as you go out into life will be very largely determined by the literary taste you have formed while in school. The following lines are worthy of being so fixed in your mind as to never be forgotten:
“Sow an act, and you reap a habit ;