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"Rudiments of Reading"
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Of the three "R's" ("reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic"), reading was from the earliest days of the Puritan settlement the most important school subject. In 17th and early 18th century New England, each town's Congregational minister and the town's elected Selectmen were required to see that every child in their town learn to read the Bible. Ministers continued to be leaders in education in New England even after the American Revolution that had established the idea of "the separation of church and state." Although schoolbooks became less theological and Calvinist, they continued to be very moral in tone and strongly Judeo-Christian in content. This reader by the Rev. Samuel Willard, liberal Unitarian minister in Deerfield in the early 1800's, reflects this trend. Note on this title page of his Reader both his commitment to educational reform and his quotes from Jesus and St. Paul.
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