Learning to Read and Write in Colonial Americaby E. Jennifer Monaghan
Pub. Date: 08/24/2005
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
An experienced teacher of reading and writing and anaward-winning historian, E. Jennifer Monaghan brings to vibrant life the process of learning to read and write in colonial America. Ranging throughout the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia, she examines the instruction of girls and boys, Native Americans and enslaved Africans, the privileged and the poor,… See more details below
An experienced teacher of reading and writing and anaward-winning historian, E. Jennifer Monaghan brings to vibrant life the process of learning to read and write in colonial America. Ranging throughout the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia, she examines the instruction of girls and boys, Native Americans and enslaved Africans, the privileged and the poor, revealing the sometimes wrenching impact of literacy acquisition on the lives of learners.
For the most part, religious motives underlay reading instruction in colonial America, while secular motives led to writing instruction. Monaghan illuminates the history of these activities through a series of deeply researched and readable case studies. An Anglican missionary battles mosquitoes and loneliness to teach the New York Mohawks to write in their own tongue. Puritan fathers model scriptural reading for their children as they struggle with bereavement. Boys in writing schools, preparing for careers in counting houses, wield their quill pens in the difficult task of mastering a "good hand." Benjamin Franklin learns how to compose essays with no teacher but himself. Young orphans in Georgia write precocious letters to their benefactor, George Whitfield, while schools in South Carolina teach enslaved black children to read but never to write.
As she tells these stories, Monaghan clears new pathways in the analysis of colonial literacy. She pioneers in the exploration of the implications of the separation of reading and writing instruction, a topic that still resonates in today's classrooms. Her close examination of reading methodology yields fresh insights into the colonial mind. Her discussion of instructional texts, particularly spelling books, adds an important and previously neglected element to the study of colonial literacy.
Monaghan's wide-ranging study confirms a break with tradition that began in some circles around the 1750s. Thereafter, a gentler vision of childhood arose, portraying children as more malleable than sinful. It promoted and even commercialized a new kind of children's book designed to amuse instead of convert, laying the groundwork for the "reading revolution" of the new republic.
"This book fills a significant gap in the scholarship of early America as well as in the scholarship of the history of reading and writing . . . . It will become an essential reference text for any scholar or student of American book history, the history of pedagogy, and the history of literacy." Patricia Crain, author of "The Story of A: The Alphabetization of America from The New England Primer to The Scarlet Letter"
"Unique in its scope and in several of the questions being asked, this wide-ranging book will be important to early Americanists as well as to historians of reading." David D. Hall, general editor of the five-volume "History of the Book in America"
E. JENNIFER MONAGHAN is professor emerita of English, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York.
A volume in the series Studie in Print Culture and the History of the Book.
- University of Massachusetts Press
- Publication date:
- Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book
- Product dimensions:
- 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)
Table of Contents
|Pt. I||The ordinary road|
|The congregationalists and the ordinary road, 1620 to 1730|
|1||Literacy and the law in orthodox New England||19|
|2||Literacy and the Indians of Massachusetts bay||46|
|3||Books read by children at home and at school||81|
|4||Death and literacy in two devout Boston families||112|
|The Anglicans and the ordinary road, 1701 to 1776|
|5||The literacy mission of the S.P.G.||143|
|6||Literacy and the Mohawks||166|
|Pt. II||Decades of transition, 1730 to 1750|
|7||Schools, schoolteachers, and schoolchildren||197|
|8||The rise of the spelling book||213|
|Pt. III||New paths to literacy acquisition, 1750 to 1776|
|9||Literacy instruction and the enslaved||241|
|11||The new world of children's books||302|
|12||Literacy in three families of the 1770s||333|
|Afterword : the lessons|
|App. 1||Signature literacy in colonial America, the United States, and the Atlantic World, 1650 to 1810|
|App. 2||The alphabet method of reading instruction|
|App. 3||Production of American imprints, 1695 to 1790|
|App. 4||American imprints versus English exports, 1710 to 1780|
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