Early Literacy Texts: What Can They Tell Us?

By Laurie Andes and Jenny McFadden.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 28, 2017 $US5.00

The authors have undertaken an historical analysis of a random sample of early reading textbooks that enjoyed widespread use in literacy instruction from 1835 to 1847. In historical analysis, the researcher uses the method of content analysis, in which texts and documents are examined and given careful consideration based on the content and context in which they were produced. This type of analysis may yield quantitative and/or qualitative data. There are many examples of this in the field of literacy history. Findings of this study include evidence that supports oral discourse theory and unavoidable social context of literacy materials. Evidence provides references to morality, virtue, religion, and the role of women in society. Additionally, several cherished traditions in literacy education are observed, such as sequential learning and emphasis on orthography, elocution, and the alphabetic method. These findings are then used to provide perspective when considering current movements in literacy education as they exist in the US, the UK, France, and other countries. Movements in these countries, as well as in the US, include a heavy emphasis on testing, phonics, and common curriculum standards as well as a prescriptive approach to literacy. The authors join others in the literacy field in questioning the wisdom of returning to methods that lack solid empirical evidence to substantiate these practices, especially when considering the literacy needs of students in the twenty-first century.

Keywords: Literacy Education, Early Literacy Texts, Standards

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 15, Issue 2, June 2017, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 28, 2017 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 555.554KB)).

Laurie Andes

Professor, Department of Teacher Education, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland, USA

Jenny McFadden

Graduate Student, Department of Education Specialties, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland, USA


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