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RCrORT RESUMES 

ED 019 198 RE 001 220 

BASAL READER PROORAMS--HOW DO THEY STAND TODAY. 

BY- £'AICERf RALPH C. 

PUB DATE APR 68 

EDRS PRICE MF>S0.25 NC>$0.e4 14P. 

DESCRIPTORS- 4READfN6 MATERIALS* 4BASIC READING* READING 
RESEARCH* 4READIMG INSTRUCTION* WORD RECOGNITION* ORAL 
READING* SILENT READING* READABILITY, 

THE DEVELCPKEN7 OF THE BASAL READER FROM ITS BEGINNINGS 
IN THE LATE 1700*5 TO ITS STATUS IN THE GRADED SCHOOLS OF 
TODAY IS SURVEYED. THE MCGUFFEY READERS ARE CITED AS THE 
first carefully graded SERIES OF ONE READER FOR EACH GRADE IN 
THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. SINCE THEN* CHANGES IN CONTENT* 
TYPOGRAPHY, IN QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF ILLUSTRATIONS* 

BINDING* AND IN SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS HAVE BEEN RADICAL. THE 
SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF READING AND THE MEASUREMENT OF READING 
ABILITY have GIVEN RISE TO THE IMPORTANCE OF SILENT READING* 
THE TEACHER'S MANUAL* AND SUPPLEMENTARY SEATWORK MATERIALS. 
PRESENTLY, THE MOST TELLING CRITICISMS OF BASAL SYSTEMS 
CONCERN THE LACK OF INCORPORATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS IN 
THEIR METHODOLOGY. FIFTEEN COUCLUSIONS ARE PRESENTED AS 
IMPORTANT INFLUENCES WHICH MAY SHAPE THE PRIMARY LEVEL BASIC 
READER PROGRAM OF THE FUTURE. QUESTIONS ARE POSED CONCERNING 
THE INFLUENCE OF HIGH SPEED TECHNOLGOY , COMPUTER-ASSISTED 
INSTRUCTION, AND TELEVISION UPON THE ADOPTION OF NEW IDEAS 
INTO BASAL READERS. REFERENCES ARE LISTED. 



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BASAL READER PROGRAMS: HOW DO THEY STARD TODAY? 




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Only a few years ago it was incomprehensi'ble to many teachers that 
reading could he taught without the use of hasal readers. In the last decade 
we have seen many innovative methods which have used other approaches to 
learning to read. A summary of some of these has just been published by the 
International Reading Association, entitled A Decade of Innovations : Approaches 
to Beginning Reading . This was one of the outcomes of our last convention, 
during which a series of meetings on this topic was held. I shall not at this 
time list these innovations, but will leave them to your reading. We are to 
discuss basal readers today. 

George Santayana once suggested that the man who does not know history is 
doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. It would appear that we should 
examine the kinds of materials which have been used in other times by children 
learning to read. Again, there are references which will provide an excellent 
background in the history of reading instruction, such as Nila Banton Smith’s 
American Reading Instruction also published by IRA and Mitford Matthews’ 



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Teaching ^ Read : Historically Consider^ issued hv the University of Cliicago 

P)’ess. Letters were "Graced in sand, dust, clay, and wax aiiA wooden tiles w .r , 
used by pupils learning their letters evr^n before the first century. The 
Horn Book, with its protective sheath of cow’s horn to protect the precious 
piece of paper with inscribed letters, syllables and religious selections was 

known to many children in Europe and America. 

The primer’s name, according to Smith, was derived not from the fact that 

it was the child’s first book, but because it contained, in the Middle Ages, 
the primary essentials of religious knowledge-the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, 
the Ten Commandments, and a few Psalms. Gradually the alphabet, lists of 
syllables and words were added to this religious manual and it became the 

standard book of instruction in reading. 

During the late Middle Ages the ABC book developed; this might be con- 
sidered the textbook edition of the primer which, after all, was not a schoo], 
book, but an expensive manual for use In church services. The fifteenth century 
Enschude Abecedarlum contained the alphabet, the Pater Noster, the Ave Marla, 
the Credo, and two prayers. 

It is Important to remember that these progenitors of modern readers, 
primer, the hornbook, and the ABC book, developed together and were derived 

from one another. 



American Readers^ 

The New England Primer, which went through twenty-two editions from 1T2T 
to 1776, was the first book designed for schools in the American colonies. 

It was a very popular book, but was eventually supplanted as an Instructional 



tool by various spellers, the most noteworthy of which was Noah Webster’s 
The American Spelling Book, which was really one of a series of three readers 



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vtiloh evolved out of the sections of Ms '!7B3 publication, Grammatical Institute. 
Section I was the spelling and reading beginner's book, Section II containel a 
treatise on grammar, and section III, leslgneO for advanced Instruction In 
academies, Included "An American Selection of :>ssons In Reading and Speaking. 
The parts were printed separately in 1T90, and an intermediate reader was soon 
found necessary. SS I-ittle Reader 's A ssistant .which bridged the gap between 
the "blue back speller" and the advanced book of readings became the first set 
of consecutive readers in the history of American reading Instruction. Thus 



our basal reading series began, soon to be followed by Caleb Bingham's readers, 
Lyman Cobb's readers, George Hilliard's readers, Idndley Murray's readers, 

and others. 

During the l840’s and ’50's the graded school was evolving, which encouraged 
the writers of graded series of readers. The Pestalozzlan emphasis on object 
teaching and nature encouraged pictures and realistic content, with attention 
to the principle of moving from the simple to the complex. The flowering of 
the development of systematic readers was a natural outgrowth of these Influences 

There was also a movement In the direction of the word method, as opposed 
to the alphabetic method of teaching beginning reading In the l840's. The 
first readers which used this method were those of Joslah Bumstead. Most of 
the teachers In the country continued to used the alphabet method because the 
majority of textbooks In use advocated It. Many heated debates developed be- 
tween advocates of the two methods, foreruimers of the debates ^ arguments 
which were to rage over other methods In later decades, and which are still 

In evidence. 

The McGuffey Readers were the first carefully graded series consisting of 
one reader for each grade In the element EU’y school. They also provided for 



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repetition of new words on a more than haphazard basis# llielr enormous popu- 
larity from 1836 to IBT*^ did not diminish until the 19^7 edition appeared# 

We still hear of people who Insist that their children be taught by the McOuffey 
Readers. Sl®aiflcantly, the edition Is rarely specified. 

I shall not attempt to trace the development of basal readers from McOuffey 
to the present, except to point out that a number of Influences contributed to 
changes In these textbooks throu^ the years. Apparent to the observer are 
not (mly changes In content, In typography. In quantity and quality of 
Illustration, In binding, and In supplenental materials In a series, but also 
In the vay In which the readers were expected to help a pupil learn to read-- 
the method. 

CLahorate phonetic msthoda appeared as a reaction to the word methods 
nld*mlneteenth century. Controversy between synthetic and analytic 
approaches to iconics flourished, diacritical markings, and even augaented 
alphabets aipeared In some series. The word method was expanded Into the 
sentence and the story method. Bach series reflected the authors' concern 
for teaching the users of the books to read. The more popular series appeared 
to be successful In their mission and, equally Important, were attractive mad 
workable In the eyes of the teachers who used them. 

Zt Is the quality of saleability which helped shape many of the series. 
Only during the last few decades has the evidence of research had a direct 
Influence upon the content and methods used In basal reading proi^ans. Studies 
of the Interests of children were reflected In the Bison Readers In 1909# 
which corresponded with the beginnings of research In reading. We must 
remeBft>er that Gray reported that only 3^ studies In reading had been conducted 
from 1884 until I910, and l4 of these.ftrom I906-I9IO. 



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Other changes which resulted from the scientific study of reading were 
th«^ recognition of the possibility of meas’oring reading ability and an emphasis 
on teaching silent reading as opposed to oral reading, which heretofore had 
been almost exclusively used In the teaching of reading* Oral reading is 
today still the most important tool of many teachers throughout the world, 
especially in those countries in which education is underdeveloped* 

nie rise of silent reading brought about the teacher's manual which, if 
its suggestions were followed, helped the teacher make better use of the series* 
Teaching silent reading, for most teachers of the 1920*8 and 1930*a,was such 
a new idea that most authors considered manuals a necessary adjunct of their 
materials, and publishers provided them without chtrge to teachers using 
their books* 

In the wake of the silent reading revolution came supplementary seat work 
in the form of flash cards, silent reading exercise books, and workbooks* 

When experience charts for bsginnlng reading were introduced they, too, were 
incorporated into basal reading programs* Ihe preprimer was provided as a 
means of preparing children for the arduous task of reading the primer* 
Eventually, readiness materials and manuals were incorporated into many series* 
Each of these Innovations was Introduced as an educationally useful tool, but 
also as a product which met a need which had been expressed by teachers, the 
ultimate purchasers of the product* 

If a series was not useful and attractive to the cuatcners, it was not 
successful* Z have seen the sales records of such a series of readers* The 
first year after publication, sales were excellent* Ihe authors were well 
regarded, the ideas behind the series sound, and the sales force active* But 
during the second year, there was a dramatic drop in sales* TJpon frantic 
investigation, the publisher's representatives found that neither pupils nor 



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teachers liked the books. They found th^^ni :>n storage shelves, unused. A 
large Investoient of intellectucQ. energy as well as money had gone Into this 
series, but they failed to achieve their purpose because of this fatal flaw. 

What Does Research Sayl 

One of the most telling criticisms cf basal reading systems in Jeanne 
(Shall *8 M that they do not incorporate 

the findings of research in their methodology. What are the findings of 
research? 

Properly, all reading research is grist for the mill which produces bsssl 
readers. This indeed has besn the esse. Those individuals who hsve led the 
building of readers have for the most part been very much aware of that 
research in reading which is appropriate to their purposes. Uhfortunstely, 
as most of us know, much of ths published reeding research has been pedestrian, 
poorly controlled end in need of careful evaluation before being used. 

In the confusion of unclear findings, conflicting conclusions, and hasy 
laqpllcatlons, the publishers who plsnned an investment of several million 
dollars in a series of basal readers looked at the research and then listened 
carefully to what their customers wanted. Most series of readers were built 
by educational realists, and are used by teachers who are faced with the 
realities of the classroom. 

We can only encourage, as Jeanne Chall suggests, *’... series of coordinated 
laboratory at well as extensive longitudinal studles-^studles that can give 
us soma definitive snswers so that we don’t keep researching the same issues 
over and over again.” 

The research studies which relate specifically to basal readers were 
rslatively few. An examination of the literature revealed only 21T such 







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studies, 



l6l of which were 



conducted 



19^ ?H 



Although categorizing these 



atudlee 1. not always valia-^.«. stndl-s do not land th«»elva. to dl.or.tr 
elasslflcatlon-^ble I Indicates the relative grouping of these studies. 



TABI£ I 

Categories of Studies Relating to Basal Readers 

1890-19^7 



Category 

Vocabulary analysis or coin(psrlson 
Content analysis or comparison 
Method analysis or comparison 
Qeneral treatment 
Criteria for selection 
Readsibillty 

Physical characteristics 
Amplification of content 
Interest characteristics 
Preparation of readers 




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10 

8 

5 

5 

4 

3 



Ihe ease with which wort. he counted 1. prohdbly one reason for the 
great mrtber of voc*ulary studies. A great many of them were masters theses. 
The concern for selecting wisely was not reflected only In the "Criteria for 
Selection- category. The purpose of many of the vocabulary art content analysis 
studies was obviously to obtain data for’^Ieleotlon of materials. This resson 
could he il.«»d from the title, of the studies. All of the "Amplification 
of Crttent" itudle. appeared before series Included supplementary naterlala. 

A surge In compsratlv. studies of methodology appemred In 1967, when the 
U.B. Office of Bducatlon-sponsored first grade studies began to appear. In 
the report of the Coordinating Center of the Cooperative Research Program In 
nrst Orrte Reading Instruction, the Basal Reading Program reached the statue 
of being used as a henohwk against which each of the less traditional non- 
basal progrrts was maasuzed. Bond and Dykstra said. The basal reading 



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program* • •wa* considered an entity oven tliough the programs of many publieh^^rs 
were used* The various sets of materials in this category posses most^ if 
not all, of the following characteristics: 

1. Vocabulary is Introduced slowly and repeated often* Vocabulary 
control is based on frequency of usage rather than on regularity 
of Bound-synibol relationships* 

2* Phonic analysis is Introduced gradually and usually only after sons 

**sliht" words have been taui^t. However, from the beginning the 
child is encouraged to use such other word recognition Skills as 
context, structural analysis and picture clues* 

3* Bqphasis ftpom the beginning is placed not only on word recognition 
but on oonprehension and interpretation of what is read* 

4* Silent reading Is s^^iMtsissd early in the progr«i* 

5* The virious reading Skills are introduesd and developed systematically* 

6* A well^own Basic Heading Seriss is used as the najor Instructional 
tool*" 

This description is a useful sunnary of the eharsoteristies of present-day 
basal reading programs at the primary level* The basal reader method as an 
entity has important weakneases when utilised as a criterion or control method 
for a atatistioal treatment of differences in test scores, however* The 
Individualistic nature of the studies whose data were turned over to the Center 

<U,ctated by Washington and the Coordinating Center had to do the best it 
could with the data it received. If the design of the 27 constituent studies 
had been controlled by the Center, a more realistic methodology would doubt- 
less have been utilised* 

The findings of the Coordinating Center were voluminous, snd appeared 
In the amusr Issue, 1967 of the Reading Research Quarterly* A sunmary of 



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(.he 15 ooncltMloM related to the methodolrgy Includes several which relate 
specifically to basal reading programs, but all are important enough to be 
mentioned at this time, for they are the Influences which will shape the prl 
mary level basal reader progran of the funurot 

la Word study Skills sost be «Bphaslzed wid tau^t systematically 
regardless of what approach to initial reading Instruction is 

used# 

2. CcBibinations of programs, such as a basal progrwi with sup- 
plementary phonics materials, often are superior to single 

approaches* Purthexmore, the success of such methods as 
the Ixperiwice approach Indicates that the addition 

of experimoes to any kind of reading program can 

be expected to make a contribution* 

3* Ibmovative programs such as Xdnipxistie readers are especially 
effective in the word recognition area* The superiority of 
pf 0 |p(»mmi to 'Kafff'^ progymas is not as .evident in the 
area of comprehension* It is likely that basal progreaw 
should develop a more Intensive word study ikills element, 
while programs which put major eaphasis on word recognition 
should increase attention paid to other reading skills* 

l»., 3[t is necessary for teachers to mkke differential expectations 
concerning mean achievement of boys and girls* On the average, 
boya cannot be eaqpeeted to achieve at the s«e level as girls, 
at least with the materials, methods, and teacters Involved in 
this investigation* A probable explanation from the data of 
thla etufliy la that boya are leas ready to read when they enter 

achool* 

5. Boya «id glrla do not profit uniquely from any of the programa 
utilised in thla Inveatigation* On the average, glrla* achieve- 
ment la auparlor to boya* no matter what approach to beginning 

» 

reading la uaed* 



8tal0«r • 10 



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6* Beading programs are not equally effective in all situation! • 
Evidently, factors other than method, within a particular 
learning situation, Influence pupil aueceaa In reading. 

7. Reading achlev«nent la related to other characteristics In 
addition to those Investigated In this study. Pupils In 
certain school systems became better readers than piqplls In other 
school systems even when piqdl characteristics were cootroUed 
statistically. Itertheimore, these differences In aehieviment 
from project to project do not seen to be directly relaM to 
the class, school, teacher, and cuamiinlty <diaraeterlstles 
appraised In this study. 

8. Pupils taught to read by means of a transitional alphdiet such 
as l.t.a. may experience ©-eater difficulty making the transi- 
tion to traditional orthography In spalling than they do In 
reading. Longitudinal InfonMtlcm Is necessary to study this 
problem. 

9. future research adih^ well center on teacher and learning 
sltuatlcm characteristics rather than method usd materials. 

The tremendous range among classrooms within any iMthod 
points out the Importance of elaaents In the learning situa- 
tion over and above the methods eaq^oyed. To improve reading 
Instruction, It Is necessary to train better teachers of 
reading rather than to expect a panacea In the form of materials. 

10. Children learn to read by a variety of materials and methods. 

Pupils becoam successful readers In such vastly different pro- 
grams as the Experience approach with Its relative 

lack of structure and vocabulary control and the various Idn- 
gulstlc programs with their relatively hl|^ degree of structure 
fyis vocabulary control. Ibrthermore, pi^ls eiQperienced dlfficul- 

. ty in each of the progrmM utilized. lo one approach Is so 
distinctly better in all situations and respects than the 
others that It should be considered the one best method and 
the one to be used exclusively. 



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Staifer * 11 

!!• Bie expectation of pupil accomplishment In Initial reading 
Instruction probably should be raised* Progrms vhleh Intro- 
duced words at a more rapid pace tended to produce pupils 
with superior word recognition abilities at the end of the 
first gt ode* Children today tend to be better equipped for 
reading Instruction when they enter first grade than they 
were some years ago and they are probaibly prepared to learn 
■ore V(u*ds and develop nore nature study skills than are 
currently expected of then In nany proptns* 

12* Xndlcatlona are that the Initial reading vocabulary should 
be selected with a greater balance between phonetically 
regular words sad hl|^ utility words* Xt is likely that 
Introducing words solely on the basis of frequency of use 
presents an unuaually conplex decoding task for the begin- 
ning reader* On the other hand. It appears that presenting 
only phonetlesUy regular words nakea It very difficult to 
write ntanlaglhl naterlal* 

13* A writing eonponent la likely to he an effective addition 
to a prlnary reading progrsn* Xh the first place, the 

liqperienee approadi, which Involves ccnsiderahle 
written expression, was an effective progrsn of Instruction* 

Xn addition, prograns such as i*t*a* and Fbonie/Iinguistie, 
both of which were relatively effective, encourage pupils 
to write spnibols as they learn to recogaise then and to 
associate them with sounds* This appears helpfhl to the 
pupil in learning aound-sysbol relationahipa* IVirthemore, 
it la likely that writing such ccnnon, hiit irreguOjff, words at 
the helps the child to connit then to his ai#t voeaibulsry 

l4* Xt it Inpoatihle to aasess the relative effsetivenesa of pro- 
grmni unless they are used in the asms project* Project dif- 
fereneea are to great, even when pupil readiness for reading 
is controlled, that a progmn utilised in a favored project 
would denonttrate a distinct advantags over one used in a 
leaa favored project regardless of the effectiveneaa of the 













Staiger - 12 

15. The relative success of the non-basal programs compared to 
the basal programs Indicates that reading Instruction can be 
Improved. It is likely that Improvement would result from 
adopting certain elements fVom each of the approaches used 
In this study. The first step would be to determine the ele- 
ments within the various approaches most la^portant to the 
success of that program. For example, the l.t*a. and Phonic/ 
linguistic progrmas, both of which were relatively effective, 
have in cosswjn a vocabulary controlled cm soimd-symbol 
regularity, introduction of a relatively large reading vocabu- 
lary, and emiAiasla on writing symbola as a means of lescmlng 
them. It would be interesting to know which of these ele- 
ments, if any, are primarily ^spcaisible for the effectlvenesa 
of the progran. Perhaps an Instructloiial program which in- 
corporated the most Important elements of all of the approaches 
used in the atudy would be a more effective method of teadUng 
than any currently in use. 

Is la the Of^ng, as It has been since Hoah Webster wrote the ho<*s 
i*lch were the progenitors of our presentnlsy basal reaflera. Bach change cas» 
iron a variety of aources-^he political and cultural ati« 08 ,here of the tls», 
the Ideaa of an educational Innovator, the l«pcrt«*lon of an Idea tr<m ^her 
country, or the findings of scientific research. As these Ideas cs>» upon the 
scene, the nature of the readers In use In the schools changed, provided that 
the puplli and teachera who used them found them acceptable. 

Similarly the Hindu religion of Ibdia has changed over the course of many 
centuries. When a new religious idea appeared, it was eventually absorbed into 
the pantheon, end, depending upon its accepttfdllty with the people, was 

incorporated Into the religious life of the country. 

BegrettAbly, «w>y new Ideas In resdlng have tdcen on a reUglous aspect. 





Stalger - 13 



The fervor of their disciples has overshadowed. In many Instances, the ll#t 

But those which have been found useful have remalned-«usually 
In the pafles of a basal reader, or In supplementary materials, or in the 
suigestlons made in a teacher's manual. 

Change will continue to take place in basal readers. But one new plmionraoa > 
has a p p ear ed on the horizon. Jercaw Wlesner, Dean of SclMMse at the Massaohusetts 
Snstltmta of feehnolotor, recently was reported to have said, **Be. have actually 
entered a new era of evoltitionary history, one in which rapid change is a 
dominant consequence. Our only hope is to understand the forces at work and 
to take advantage of the knowledge we find.” 

The change of the past was an evolutionary one, in Which gradual acceptance 
could be waited for. Will gradualism In the adoption of new ideas in basal 
readers be possible In the era in Which we now llvwt Will the knowledge of 
the hi|ii speed technology which surrounds us-Hjompoter-assistsd testructioni|A'^^ 
television, for instmce— permit the gradual adoption of new ideas into basal 
readto'st Time alone will tell. At present, the educational market provides 
adequate profits for investments in malor prodects such as basal reader a. 

Will this also hold in five years? 

The future will be disquieting to those who abhor change, but it will be 
interesting.