(MATILDA O'DONNELL MACELROY PERSONAL NOTE)
"I began the reading lessons with the first pages of a school book
that had been used to teach pioneer children in the 1800s on the
frontiers of America. It is called "McGuffey's Eclectic Reader,
Primer Through Sixth". 40 (Footnote)
Since I am a nurse, and not a teacher, the language expert who gave
me the books also gave me an extensive briefing - a course that
took an entire day - on how to use the books to teach the alien. He
said the reason he chose these particular books was because the
original 1836 version of these books were used for three-quarters of
a century to teach about four-fifths of all American school children
how to read. No other books ever had so much influence over American
children for so long.
McGuffey's educational course begins in "The Primer" by presenting
the letters of the alphabet to be memorized, in sequence. Children
were then taught, step by step, to use the building blocks of the
language to form and pronounce words, using the phonics method 41
(Footnote) which involves teaching children to connect sounds with
letters. Each lesson begins with a study of words used in the
reading exercise and with markings to show the correct pronunciation
for each word.
I discovered that the stories in the "First and Second Readers"
picture children in their relationship with family members,
teachers, friends, and animals. The "Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth
Readers" expanded on those ideas. One of the stories I remember was
"The Widow and the Merchant".
It's kind of a morality tale about a
merchant who befriends a widow in need. Later, when the widow proves
herself to be honest, the merchant gives her a nice gift. The books
do not necessarily teach you to believe that charity is expected
only of wealthy people though. We all know that generosity is a
virtue that should be practiced by everyone.
All of the stories were very wholesome and they gave very good
explanations to illustrate virtues like honesty, charity, thrift,
hard work, courage, patriotism, reverence for God, and respect for
parents. Personally, I would recommend this book to anyone!
I also discovered that the vocabulary used in the book was very
advanced compared to the relatively limited number of words people
use commonly in our modern age. I think we have lost a lot of our
own language since our Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of
Independence over 200 years ago!
As instructed, I sat next to Airl in the interview room reading
aloud to her from each successive book in the series of McGuffey's
Readers. Each of the books had excellent, simple illustrations of
the stories and subjects being taught, although they are very
outdated by today's standards. Nonetheless, Airl seemed to
understand and absorb every letter, sound, syllable and meaning as
we progressed. We continued this process for 14 hours a day for 3
consecutive days without interruption, except for a few meals and
rest breaks on my part.
Airl did not take breaks for anything. She did not sleep. Instead
she remained sitting in the overstuffed chair in the interview room,
reviewing the lessons we had already covered. When I returned each
morning to begin where we'd left off, she had already memorized the
previous lessons and was well into the next pages. This pattern
continued to accelerate until it became pointless for me to continue
reading to her.
Although Airl did not have a mouth to speak with, she was now able
to "think" at me in English. At the end of these lessons, Airl was
able to read and study by herself. I showed her how to use a
dictionary to look up new words she encountered. Airl consulted the
dictionary continually after that. From then on my job was acting as
a courier for her, requesting that reference books be brought to her
in a steady stream.
Next, Mr. Newble brought in a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
42 (Footnote) Airl especially enjoyed this because it had a lot of
pictures. After that, she requested many more picture books and
reference books with photographs and drawings because it was much
easier to understand the meaning if she could see a picture of the
thing she was studying.
Over the next six days books were brought in from libraries all over
the country, I presume, because it wasn't more than a few more days
before she had read through several hundred of them! She studied
every subject I could imagine, and many other very technical things
I never wanted to know anything about, like astronomy, metallurgy,
engineering, mathematics, various technical manuals, and so forth.
Later she began to read fiction books, novels, poetry and the
classics of literature. Airl also asked to read a great many books
on subjects in the humanities, especially history. I think she must
had read at least 50 books about human history and archaeology. Of
course, I made sure that she received a copy of the Holy Bible also,
which she read from cover to cover without comment or questions.
Although I continued to stay with Airl for 12 to 14 hours each day,
most of that time during the following week had been spent without
much communication between us, except for an occasional question she
asked me. The questions were usually meant to give her a sense of
context or to clarify something in the books she was reading.
Oddly, Airl told me that her favorite books are "Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland" 43 (Footnote), "Don Quixote de la Mancha"
44 (Footnote) and "One
Thousand and One Nights" 45 (Footnote). She said the authors of
these stories showed that it is more important to have great spirit
and imagination than great skill or power.
I could not answer a lot of her questions, so I consulted with the
people in the outer room for answers. Most of these had to do with
technical and scientific things. A few of her questions were about
the humanities. The depth of complex understanding and subtlety of
her questions showed that she had a very penetrating intellect.
Personally, I think she had already known a lot more about the
culture and history of Earth than she was willing to admit when we
started. I would soon discover how much more."
40 "...McGuffey's Eclectic
"McGuffey's Eclectic Readers were written by William Holmes
McGuffey who began teaching school at the age of 14. He was a
professor of ancient languages at Miami University from 1826
until his resignation in 1836. He then served as president of
Cincinnati College (1836-1839) and Ohio University (1839-1843).
Returning to Cincinnati, McGuffey taught at Woodward College
from 1843 until 1845, when he became a professor of moral
philosophy at the University of Virginia. He was ordained as a
Presbyterian minister in 1829.
It was during his years at Miami
when McGuffey was approached to write a series of readers for
school children. In addition to the work done on these by
William Holmes McGuffey, he was assisted by his brother,
Alexander Hamilton McGuffey, who also compiled a speller and had
sole responsibility for the Fifth Reader. Alexander taught
school while working on his law degree and opened a law office
in Cincinnati in 1839. The McGuffey Readers sold over
McGuffey became a "roving" teacher
at the age of 14, beginning with 48 students in a one room
school in Calcutta, Ohio. The size of the class was just one of
several challenges faced by the young McGuffey. In many
one-teacher schools, children's ages varied from six to
twenty-one. McGuffey often worked 11 hours a day, 6 days a week
in a succession of frontier schools. He had a remarkable ability
to memorize, and could commit to mind entire books of the Bible.
The first Reader taught reading by using the phonics method, the
identification of letters and their arrangement into words, and
aided with slate work. The second Reader came into play once the
student could read, and helped them to understand the meaning of
sentences while providing vivid stories which children could
remember. The third Reader taught the definitions of words, and
was written at a level equivalent to the modern 5th or 6th
grade. The fourth Reader was written for the highest levels of
ability on the grammar school level, which students completed
with this book.
McGuffey's Readers were among the
first textbooks in America that were designed to become
progressively more challenging with each volume. They used word
repetition in the text as a learning tool, which built strong
reading skills through challenging reading. Sounding-out,
enunciation and accents were emphasized. Colonial-era texts had
offered dull lists of 20 to 100 new words per page for
memorization. In contrast, McGuffey used new vocabulary words in
the context of real literature, gradually introducing new words
and carefully repeating the old.
McGuffey believed that teachers should study the lessons as well
as their students and suggested they read aloud to their
classes. He also listed questions after each story for he
believed in order for a teacher to give instruction, one must
ask questions. The Readers emphasized spelling, vocabulary, and
formal public speaking, which, in 19th century America, was a
more common requirement than today.
Henry Ford cited McGuffey's Readers as one of his most important
childhood influences. He was an avid fan of McGuffey's Readers
first editions, and claimed as an adult to be able to quote from
McGuffey's by memory at great length. Ford republished all six
Readers from the 1857 edition, and distributed complete sets of
them, at his own expense, to schools across the United States.
McGuffey's Readers contain many derogatory references to ethnic
and religious minorities. For example, Native Americans are
referred to as "savages". There are those who regard the
references in the book to the Jews and Judaism as anti-Semitic.
For instance, in Neil Baldwin's Henry Ford and the Jews, the
author makes the case that Henry Ford's self-avowed
anti-Semitism originated with his study of McGuffey's as a
Baldwin cites numerous anti-semitic
references to Shylock and to Jews attacking Jesus and Paul. He
also quotes the Fourth Reader to the effect that "Jewish authors
were incapable of the diction and strangers to the morality
contained in the gospel." The readers further characterize Jews
as "Christ killers" and labels their reverence of the Old
Testament as "superstitious," and teach that Jews have been
rejected by God for being "unfaithful"."
You may download text versions of the McGuffy's Reader from the
following website: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14640
41 "... the phonics method ... "
"Phonics refers to an instructional method for teaching children
to read English. Phonics involves teaching children to connect
sounds with letters or groups of letters (e.g., that the sound
/k/ can be represented by c, k, or ck spellings) and teaching
them to blend the sounds of letters together to produce
approximate pronunciations of unknown words."
-- Reference: Wikipedia.org
42 "... brought in a set of the
Encyclopedia Britannica..." "The Encyclopædia Britannica is a
general English-language encyclopaedia published by Encyclopædia
Britannica, Inc., a privately held company. The Britannica has a
popular reputation for summarizing all of human knowledge. To
further their education, many have devoted themselves to reading
the entire Britannica, taking anywhere from three to 22 years to
do so. When Fat'h Ali became the Shah of Persia in 1797, he was
given a complete set of the Britannica's 3rd edition, which he
read completely; after this feat, he extended his royal title to
include "Most Formidable Lord and Master of the Encyclopædia
Writer George Bernard Shaw claimed
to have read the complete 9th edition—except for the science
articles—and Richard Evelyn Byrd took the Britannica as reading
material for his five-month stay at the South Pole in 1934. The
articles in the Britannica are aimed at educated adult readers,
and written by a staff of 19 full-time editors and over 4,000
expert contributors. It is widely perceived as the most
scholarly of encyclopaedias. Since the 3rd edition, the
Britannica has enjoyed a popular and critical reputation for
general excellence. On the release of the 14th edition, Time
magazine dubbed the Britannica the "Patriarch of the Library".
In a related advertisement,
naturalist William Beebe was quoted as saying that the
Britannica was "beyond comparison because there is no
competitor." References to the Britannica can be found
throughout English literature, most notably in one of Arthur
Conan Doyle's favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, "The Red-Headed
-- Reference: Wikipedia.org
43 "...her favorite books were
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ..." "Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland (1865) is a work of literary nonsense written by
English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym
Lewis Carroll, considered a classic example of the genre and of
English literature in general. It tells the story of a girl
named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantastic realm
populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures.
The tale is filled with allusions to
Dodgson's friends (and enemies), and to the lessons that British
schoolchildren were expected to memorize. The tale plays with
logic in ways that have made the story of lasting popularity
with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of
the most characteristic examples of the genre of literary
nonsense, and its narrative course and structure has been
enormously influential, mainly in the fantasy genre."
-- Reference: Wikipedia.org
44 "...Don Quixote de la Mancha..."
"An early novel written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes
Saavedra. Cervantes created a fictional origin for the story
based upon a manuscript by the invented Moorish historian, Cide
Hamete Benengeli. The work was published in two volumes: the
first in 1605, and the second in 1614.
The protagonist, Alonso Quixano, is a country gentleman who has
read so many stories of chivalry that he descends into fantasy
and becomes convinced he is a knight errant. Together with his
earthy squire Sancho Panza, the self-styled "Don Quixote de la
Mancha" sets out in search of adventure. The "lady" for whom
Quixote seeks to toil is Dulcinea del Toboso, an imaginary
object crafted from a neighboring farm girl (her real name is
Aldonza Lorenzo) by the illusion-struck "knight" to be the
object of his courtly love. "Dulcinea" is totally unaware of
Quixote's feelings for her, nor does she actually appear in the
Published in two volumes a decade apart, Don Quixote is the most
influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden
Age and perhaps the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding
work of modern Western literature, it regularly appears at or
near the top of lists of the greatest works of fiction ever
published and is the best-selling non-religious, non-political
work of fiction of all time."
45 "...One Thousand and One
"One Thousand and One Nights (Arabic:
كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة
- kitab 'alf laylah wa-laylah; Persian:
هزار و یک شب
- ezar-o yak sab) is a collection of stories collected over
thousands of years by various authors, translators and scholars
in various countries. These collections of tales trace their
roots back to ancient Arabia and Yemen, ancient India, ancient
Persia (especially the Sassanid Hazar Afsan Persian:
, lit. Thousand Tales),
ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamian Mythology, ancient Syria,
and medieval Arabic folk stories from the Caliphate era. Though
an original manuscript has never been found several versions
date the collection's genesis to somewhere between AD 800-900.
The main frame story concerns a Persian king and his new bride.
The king, Shahryar, upon discovering his former wife's
infidelity has her executed and then declares all women to be
unfaithful. He begins to marry a succession of virgins only to
execute each one the next morning. Eventually the vizier cannot
find any more virgins. Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter,
offers herself as the next bride and her father reluctantly
agrees. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade tells the
king a tale, but does not end it. The king is thus forced to
keep her alive in order to hear the conclusion. The next night,
as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins (and only begins)
another. So it goes for 1,001 nights.
The tales vary widely: they include
historical tales, love stories, tragedies, comedies, poems,
burlesques, various forms of erotica, and Muslim religious
legends. Numerous stories depict djinn, magicians, and legendary
places, which are often intermingled with real people and
geography; the historical caliph Harun al-Rashid is a common
protagonist, as are his alleged court poet Abu Nuwas and his
vizier, Ja'far al-Barmaki. Sometimes a character in
Scheherazade's tale will begin telling other characters a story
of his own, and that story may have another one told within it,
resulting in a richly-layered narrative texture.
The different versions have different individually detailed
endings (in some Scheherazade asks for a pardon, in some the
king sees their children and decides not to execute his wife, in
some other things happen that make the king distracted) but they
all end with the king giving his wife a pardon and sparing her
The narrator's standards for what constitutes a cliffhanger seem
broader than in modern literature. While in many cases a story
is cut off with the hero in danger of losing his life or another
kind of deep trouble, in some parts of the full text
Scheherazade stops her narration in the middle of an exposition
of abstract philosophical principles or complex points of
Islamic philosophy, and in one case during a detailed
description of human anatomy according to Galen—and in all these
cases turns out to be justified in her belief that the king's
curiosity about the sequel would buy her another day of life.
The Indian folklore is represented by certain animal stories,
which reflect influence from ancient Sanskrit fables. The Jataka
is a collection of 547 stories, which are for the most part
moral stories with an ethical purpose. The Tale of the Bull and
the Ass and the linked Tale of the Merchant and his Wife are
found in the frame stories of both the Jataka and the Arabian