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Schools and Families.








Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1835,

BY NOAH WEBSTER, LL.D., in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Connecticut District.



Having been requested, through the medium of the press, to re-publish my American Selection, or Third Part of the Institute, I have thought it expedient, and a duty which I owe to the public, to comply substantially with the request. It is said, by respectable men, tbat a book of this kind, for schools, ought to contain compositions adapted to instruct our youth in what belongs to this country; the history, geography, constitutions and laws of the United States : compositions not found in Murray's English Reader, and many other similar collections. This defect I have endeavored to supply in the present compilation; and several original articles are inserted, which, it is believed, will be useful.

Being a farmer's son myself, and having been, at times, occupied with agriculture, I have inserted observations on that subject, some of which are the results of experience. The brief account given of the materials of food, clothing, and untensils, will serve to extend the knowledge of natural history, and exhibit proofs of the abundant provision which the Creator has made to supply the wants of men. It will also show the importance of commerce, by which distant nations become useful to each other, each furnishing the commodities of its own production, for the convenience of every other. It cannot fail to gratify a rational mind to observe, that for our domestic enjoyinents we are indebted, in a greater or less degree, to the productions and manufactures of every climate; while, in return, our country supplies other nations with what their own soil will not produce, or which their own labor does not furnish. The effect of such observations should be, to enlarge the views of young persons, create an attachment to every branch of the human family, and elevate their minds to the benevolent author of their being, and of all their comforts and hopes. Such observations should also inspire our citizens with gratitude for his favors, and with confidence in his protection, unless that protection should be forfeited by an abuse of his goodness.

In a work of this kind, some words must be used which may not be generally understood by common people, and especially by young persons. For this reason, I have often inserted ex

planatory words, after the term which may not be familiar to common readers. But every family, and every child in school, should have a dictionary; not a six cent book, containing a few words, but a school dictionary, containing all words which are ordinarily used in common language. My smallest dictionary, for primary schools, contains thirty-eight thousand words, and the duodecimo contains forty-three thousand. No dictionary for families and schools should contain a less number. Men who rely on the use of little defining books, that contain only a comparatively small number of words, for the instruction of their children, actually withhold from them the necessary means of a good education. There is not a greater mistake among parents, than in seeking for cheap books for their children. In one sense, all books are now cheap; they are far cheaper than they were formerly, and as cheap as they can be afforded. But it is a fraud upon prosterity, to put into the hands of children none but books which are extremely defective.

Small children, however, should not be perplexed with definitions, especially of difficult words and abstract terms. They have not capacities to comprehend them; the intellect must have time to enlarge and expand, like the human body, and like plants; and it is as unnatural and absurd to attempt to forca the growth of the mind, as it is to force the growth of the body. Nor is precocity in children of any ultimate use, as Dr. Johnson remarked seventy years ago; it is no evidence that they will know more in adult years, than those who are later in the acquisition of knowledge. This fact I have learned by the observations of a long life.

The memory is the faculty which is most perfect in children; and this faculty is first to be employed in gaining an accurate knowledge of letters, and of their sounds in combination; that is, in syllables and words. So irregular is the orthography of English words, that a knowledge of the sound of a letter in one word, is no guide to its sound in many others. The same is true of many combinations of letters in syllables. To overcome this difficulty, it is necessary that children should be long drilled in spelling, until the proper sounds of letters and syllables in each word, become as familiar as the letters of the alphabet. If they are not thus drilled, when they are put to read, they will be obliged to stop and spell words, and perhaps wait to be told how to pronounce them, before they can proceed. It is this consideration which has tendered the classification of words in my Spelling Book so useful. And it has been observed, that those persons who have been most thoroughly versed in that book, have made the best spellers, and in future

years have been least embarrassed in writing words of irregular orthography.

Nothing can be more absurd than the opinion, that children should not spell or read words which they do not understand. The truth is, that children cannot read well, till words, and the pronunciation of them, are so familiar, that they know both as soon as they see the words.

In the repetition of words in classes, there is this advantage : the child becomes accustomed to pronounce each syllable distinctly, and to lay the accent on the proper syllable. This practice soon forms a habit which will continue, and which will lead to a correct pronunciation of similar words in other books. This advantage is not duly estimated. Such familiarity with the sounds of letters in combination, and with accent and distinct articulation, can be obtained only by the repetition of words of like formation; and during this process, it is of little or no consequence whether the child knows the meaning of the words or not. Children begin reading with easy lessons, consisting of household words, which they understand; and as they advance, their minds are expanded for comprehending words of more difficult import. Let the first object of the teacher be, to render words, and their true pronunciation, as to the sounds of the vowels and the accents, so familiar to his pupils, that when they see the word in reading, they will instantly recol. lect the pronunciation. When children are able thus to read, without stopping to spell words, they may then be put upon definitions ; and it would be well that every child should study his lessons in reading with the aid of a dictionary, before he recites. If this plan cannot be fully accomplished, in all instances, it is, to a considerable extent, reducible to practice.

One of the greatest errors in education, not only in the Enga lish, but in other languages, is, to hurry the pupil forward, before he is well-grounded in the first rudiments.

In the selection of compositions in this book, regard has been had to entertainment as well as to utility. But in this, as in my other publications, it bas been my aim to make useful instruction the prominent object ; amusement being a secondary consideration. The main purpose of education is, to instill into the minds of youth practical truth, and sound principles in religion, in morals, in social relations, in law and government, as well as in arts and sciences. The undue attention given to those branches of knowledge which serve only for ornament, and distinction in the present life, without tending to correct the principles of the heart, has been the source of immense evil to the civilized part of Europe, and will probably be the same in this country. To this may be added the rage for books of mere amusement, which has already banished, in some measure, the

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