from the power or habit of close attention and accurate observation, are able to discriminate them more readily in their various combinations in words. Some of the most distinguished men of modern times were looked upon as very dull and unpromising in the early stages of their pupilage; and this was, in part, owing to their want of facility in the exercise of reading. But as their good fortune had it, they fell in with instructors who put them upon the right path, taught them to observe, and drilled them in the calling at sight of the different classes of words, till their eyes became familiar with them, and they could read without stumbling. They were thinkers before,they were called, perhaps, dull plodders, but now they thought not only with their own understandings, but they availed themselves, by intelligent reading, of the thoughts of others, and became, at length, instead of plodders, originators of thoughts, not only for a nation, but for the world.

Go into almost any school, and you will find there -in the higher classes, too—stumbling readers, readers who halt at nearly every long word. They are trying to call words at sight, and this is what they have never learned, or been taught to do. Trace back the progress of these pupils, and it would be found that their defective, almost intolerable mode of reading, or trying to read, was owing to their being advanced according to age instead of attainments. They had not been sufficiently drilled, at the proper time, in the exercise of spelling words as divided into syllables, and then calling them or pronouncing them at sight. Mr. Russell, whose experience and success as a teacher of elocution render his judgment worthy of high regard--Mr. Russell says, that “A confused and stumbling manner of reading is, in most cases, owing to imperfect early practice in spelling. The slighting of spelling fosters the native tendency of childhood to undue rapidity in forming combinations

a tendency, which the experienced teacher knows to be the main source of error with juvenile readers.” He might have added, and with many adult readers tco; for he says in another place, that " The fact has been forced upon his observation, that the number of adults who read without miscalling words, is comparatively small.” My own observation as a teacher during seven winters and two whole years, and as an inspector of schools during thirty years, is fully in accordance with that of Mr. Russell. It has ever been a source of solicitude and dissatisfaction. I have made careful inquiries on this subject with respect to the common schools of New Hampshire, and I believe I am correct in estimating, that of the eighty thousand pupils who were in our schools during the past winter, not less than five thousand, chiefly boys, will leave our schools, without being able to call words at sight, so as to read common books with pleasure and profit. The evil, therefore, of this early superficial instruction is of no small magnitude. It is too generally supposed that these pupils lack the capacity for learning to read. This may be the case in some instances. But observation and experience have taught me, that the far larger proportion of them, with such methods of instruction as ought to be adopted, may learn to read, if not in the best manner, yet with a fair degree of facility and intelligence.

There is a serious moral evil connected with the

want of an ability to read with ease and intelligence. In the first place, it is impossible for such pupils to make much progress in the several studies pursued in our schools. They will be superficial in every thing. In the second place, they will have no taste for reading. While others are improving their minds at the domestic fireside, in the long evenings of winter, they will be found in the streets, or in places where their taste is corrupted, and their characters ruined. And, again, they are the pupils in a school who are the most idle and the most inclined to acts of disobedience. Having nothing to do, or rather not being able to do any thing in the way of study with satisfaction and interest, they are tempted to do what they can do with as great success as others.

I have dwelt at some length on this point, because I believe it has not hitherto received due notice and attention. Many of those, however, who leave school with ability to read without miscalling words, have spent too large a portion of their time in coming to this result. For want of sufficient and thorough practice in the first few years of their attendance at school, their time bas been frittered away; and thus many rank as indifferent scholars, who, under more favorable circumstances, would have been among the best.

The hindrance to progress, of which I have been speaking, is owing, in part, to want of proper classification. The fact is, that pupils too generally class themselves. The teachers of schools are changed almost every term, and at the beginning of each term their pupils are found arranged in classes according to ages, little regard having been paid to degrees of

advancement. If teachers attempt to reärrange them according to their own judgment, placing each pupil in the class to which he properly belongs, great offence is apt to be given, and, not unfrequently, a foundation for difficulty is laid which greatly hinders, if it does not entirely destroy the usefulness of the school. With regard to this matter of classification, a great change in public opinion is demanded. A pupil considers himself as disgraced by being rea quested to go into a class whose ages are a few years less than his own. This feeling of the pupil is confirmed by public opinion, both in the school and out of the school; and sometimes, it may be feared, by teachers theinselves, speaking of the change as a degradation. Public opinion should settle the question in this way, demanding what is best for the pupil, and making the degradation consist in being placed with those whose attainments are superior.

I recollect a successful stroke of policy by a teacher not wanting in expedients for surmounting difficulties in his school. His second class in reading consisted in part of six or eight boys, who were stumbling readers; and, as it often happens, they were the oldest pupils in the class. As the class was large, and it took a long time to go through the exercise of reading, he proposed to divide it. The older pupils, who were the poorest readers, were arranged together and called the first division. This prevented all difficulty. The words first division saved them the feeling of disgrace, and by a thorough method of drilling in the enunciation of words, they were found at the end of the term to be quite respectable readers.

It is true, that superintending committees are au

thorized by law, in this State, to class the pupils of a school. They have rarely, I believe, attempted it. It would do little good if they were to attempt it. Public opinion, in most cases, would not sustain them. They would be regarded as interfering with what did not belong to them. The only way to secure a proper classification of pupils in country schools is, for parents to repose full confidence in the teacher, and insist upon his directions being carried into effect. This is far from being the case, at present, and the consequence is that thousands of pupils are hindered in their progress.

I know that in small schools it is very difficult to form classes of like attainments. But in such schools there is more time for direct personal instruction, and the want of suitable classification will not be so severely felt. But even here, if pupils, who learn but slowly, try to keep pace with those who advance more rapidly, they are apt to be seriously injured. Their attainments will be superficial. They seldom love study, and they are the pupils most frequently marked in the school-bills as absent.

The condition of common schools, with regard to thoroughness of instruction, is far from what it should be. Much has been said and written on this topic, but superficial instruction is still prevalent. Complaints from committees, commissioners, and boards of education have been made and reiterated, and some improvement, no doubt, has been the result. But with reference to a large proportion of schools, what is their condition ? Take the universally required studies of arithmetic, grammar and geography. One who examines the same schools from year to year,

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