What kids were reading in 1914

The California Sixth Grade Reader, published in 1914, is back as an e-book with an introduction by science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle.

The reader is filled with stories and poems such as The Argonauts, The Courtship of Miles Standish, The Inchcape Rock and  Jubal and Tubal Cain.

I read most of these as a kid, though not for school.

Via Instapundit, who writes: “When I was in junior high in the 1970s, I often read the old textbooks from the 1950s, which seemed to be written at a higher level than the ones we were using. When the Insta-Daughter was the same age, she looked at old textbooks from the 1970s, which seemed to be written at a higher level than the ones her classes were using. . . . “

About Joanne


  1. In the early 20th century, most Americans were content with basic literacy and numeracy. High school was an elite luxury for most. The students were both much more motivated and more capable.

    In the early 21st century, basic literacy and numeracy are almost universal. However now everyone is expected to graduate from high school and go to college. So our high schools are crowded with the unmotivated and incapable.

    The change was inevitable.

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    Also of interest might be this paper:

    http://www.soc.cornell.edu/hayes-lexical-analysis/schoolbooks/Papers/HayesWolferAndWolf1996.pdf [this is a pre-print version of a paper that appeared in American Educational Research Journal].

    Page 11 has some interesting summary findings.

    American Educational Research Journal articles appear to be peer-reviewed (I know at least one reader of this blog cares).

  3. The original book is out of copyright, but it doesn’t appear to be free on Google Books nor on Project Gutenberg.  A pity it’s not available to the public gratis.