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In our prefatory remarks we shall endeavour to point out the distinctive features of this book, and to explain the manner in which we think it should be used, leaving it to teachers and the public generally to judge whether its claims of being an improvement on the English school collections at present in use be well or ill founded.
In regard to the prose lessons, it will be seen that they embrace a great variety of subjects, and are selected both on account of the elegancy and liveliness of the style in which they are written, and of the interesting nature of the information they contain. In books of this class it has been popular of late years to present the scholar with summaries of sacred and of profane history, and with short but connected, although necessarily very meagre, views of some branches of science, illustrated with a few diagrams. In our experience as a teacher we have found such books not well adapted for teaching young persons to read fluently and elegantly, or to inspire them with a love of reading by themselves. But without referring particularly to our experience in teaching, a moment's reflection on the nature of the human mind will show that this must be the The powers of the mind come into operation gradually, and in invariable order; and, at the age of eleven or twelve years, the fancy and the affections are more particularly active; but the dry language in which scientific truth is often conveyed, with page after page of history, in which names and dates are for the most part the only things ever meeting the eye, are neither suited to charm the one nor to engage the other. "It is no wisdom" says Dr Arnold, "to make boys prodigies of information; but it is our wisdom and our duty to cultivate their faculties each in its season-first the memory and imagination, and then the judgment; to furnish them with the means, and to excite the desire of improving themselves, and to wait with confidence for God's blessing on the result."
In regard to the poetical lessons we have to remark that their number in this book is unusually large, that they exhibit a very great variety of measures, and that they are internally fitted to delight the youthful mind while they foster a correct literary taste. In no respects, perhaps, are the generality of English collections with which the author of this book is acquainted so objectionable as in their scanty and ill-chosen poetical lessons. Poetry however, may be much used, and with the happiest results in carrying on the work of youthful instruction. Sentiments presented to the mind in the garb of verse make a more lasting and intelligible impression than if presented in sober prose; and in no way is the memory capable of being made more useful than by treasuring up some of the choice productions of poetic genius, the recitation of which is no less beneficial than the exercise of learning them.
One great objection to the English collections in use in this part of the country is the impossibility of marking off a definite piece of work to be done at home. You may give the class a general order to prepare such and such a lesson, but this command involves so much that it is never attended to at all. In this book, however, the master can at once mark off work to be done which will be both pleasing and of immediate use. To each lesson will be found a set of questions, numbered, so that pupil and master can instantaneously find any question referred to. These questions are constructed not so much on the principle of eliciting the knowledge that is in the mind, as of working new information gently into it, by leading the pupil into a train of thought similar to that which the author himself may be supposed to have followed. In preparing answers to questions constructed on this plan, the pupil is delighted to feel that he is not a mere passive recipient of knowledge, but a co-worker with the author himself. Whatever knowledge the mind acquires in this way affords great delight, and is lastingly retained, for the memory becomes the storehouse of what the reason has comprehended and the judgment approved. We have endeavoured to draw moral and religious instruction from all the lessons, as we consider it a teacher's duty in everything and at all times to be casting the good seed into the mind, and, by God's blessing, into the hearts of his pupils. We have introduced almost every lesson with a note, original or selected, bearing directly on the subject in hand, and we have added notes at the foot of the page wherever they were deemed necessary. This does away entirely with the use of a separate manual, or key, in which matter of this kind is sometimes inconveniently furnished.
We must refer to the arrangement of the poetical lessons, which will be found nearly the same as in the prose ones. We deem this part of our book a decided improvement on the old plan, and it is nearly a novelty in school books of this class. In conclusion, we would just say, that the lessons being entirely independent of each other, except in one or two instances, they may be read in any order the master may deem advisable, but we would recommend the vocabulary at the end of the book to be read by the class in the master's hearing at the rate of two or three pages weekly, over and over again, in order that the pupil may get the benefit of it in as easy a way as possible. Of course, when reading a lesson, the columns must be thoroughly mastered in every point of view. We would also strongly urge upon teachers to subject their pupils to a searching viva voce examination on each lessson, after they have mastered the columns and answered the printed questions. Some use, also, might be made of this book in teaching composition, as a class of elder scholars will be perfectly able to reproduce, in language of their own, the substance of any lesson they have studied in the full manner here indicated. The poetry, besides being studied exactly in the same way as the prose lessons, ought also to be learned by heart and recited in the class at the rate of twenty or thirty lines per week. We will now commit our little work to the public, praying God for Christ's sake to bless our humble endeavours for the benefit of the young.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
Ix preparing a Second Edition of the "READER" for the press, the compiler has availed himself of the opportunity presented of effecting some considerable alterations, which, it is believed, will greatly enhance the value of the book. These alterations consist chiefly in a different arrangement of the vocabulary, the omission of some prose lessons, and the addition of a great many new extracts, not only most suitable, but quite fresh in a school collection. Room for these pieces has been found by shortening some of the longer notes, increasing the number of pages in the volume, and printing the poetical division in a rather smaller type. The extracts are all made from authors of the highest standing, and care has been taken, that the definitions of words,
notes, &c., added to facilitate the study of the lessons by the pupils, should be full, correct, and really useful. The words selected for explanation have been printed in italics in the body of the lessons, an arrangement that must obviously be of great advantage, both to the teacher and the scholar. If the compiler has succeeded in his design, the "ADVANCED READER" will be found to contain a great amount of important and useful information, highly attractive in itself, well arranged for the practical purposes of education, and in tone, ever tending to strengthen and elevate the spiritual element, the higher part of our nature.
GLASGOW, MARCH, 1858.
THE POETICAL READER; a New Selection of Poetry for the SchoolRoom. 108 pp. Strongly bound, price 1s. 3d.
Under the above title, the poetical portion of the "Advanced Reader" has been reprinted in a volume by itself. As many of the "Collections" at present in use in our schools, though otherwise excellent, have but a scanty and ill-chosen selection of poetry, such a book as the "Poetical Reader" seemed to be called for.