Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Royal Readers-- Victorian-era textbooks online

Today, I was looking at some of our ICH collections on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative.  While poking around, I found that the Library has digitized The Royal Readers, a series of elementary school textbooks which are often mentioned in local oral history and folklore interviews when old-time school days are discussed.

The Royal Readers were numbered, representing ascending reading levels, and included illustrated prose pieces and poetry, word lessons,  rhetorical passages with sections on useful knowledge, great inventions, the classification of animals, punctuation and world geography, as well as information on British history and  the British Constitution.

This from the Digital Archives Initiative:

"The Royal Readers, produced in Britain, were used in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador from the 1870s until well into the 20th century. The 8 books in the Royal School Series, including the primer and the infant reader, covered the subjects reading and spelling from the commencement of schooling to final matriculation."

The books were used in a number of British colonial education systems, including Australia and Guyana.  In Australia, the books were used throughout Queensland and New South Wales.  According to the Queensland Department of Training and Education, "the Royal Readers or the Blue Readers were introduced into Queensland schools in 1892.... The Royal Readers had been prepared especially for Victorian schools and featured some Australian content. The authors made great use of the natural world as well as incidents and common daily events to attract children to the stories. Teachers were encouraged to teach children not only the 'art of reading' but also a 'love of reading'. Illustrations were used effectively to attract children 'through the eye' to the stories and to help them understand same." 

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