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Reading lessons from the eighteenth century

By M. Styles and E. Arizpe


The extraordinary nursery library produced by Jane Johnson holds pride of place in the Lilly Library’s collection of early and young adults as children’s books at the University of Indiana, USA. It has already been celebrated in an exhibition and international conference held reading. at the Fitzwilliam Museum and Homerton College respectively in Cambridge, UK, in 1995. One outcome of the interest aroused in Jane’s educational materials by scholars from a wide range of disciplines was the publication of Opening the Nursery Door in 1997, which included two essays devoted to her enterprise by Shirley Brice Heath and Victor Watson. Since then, the Bodleian Library in Oxford has acquired and published in facsimile form a story written by Jane in 1744, alongside a fascinating assortment of family letters and other papers. In Opening the Nursery Door, Watson explored the sources for Jane’s story, while Brice Heath considered the materials from a linguistic and anthropological point of view, but no one has yet examined them as reading materials. This is the focus the present authors have taken, based on their research into her life and work, alongside their exploration of the historical and educational context in which a mother might have taught her children to read in the eighteenth century. This article is devoted to examining Jane’s nursery library, the philosophical and pedagogical influences on her approach, and the methodologies she used to teach reading, thus throwing a spotlight on domestic literacy and providing insights into the culture of Georgian family life

Topics: LA, Z004
Publisher: Springer Netherlands
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.1023/b:clid.0000018900.64783.65
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Provided by: Enlighten
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