History of Literacy

History of Reading News. Vol.XXVI No.1 (2002:Fall)

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For the past few years, the Reading Hall of Fame has requested that the History of Reading SIG present a notable person from the history of reading for nomination to the Reading Hall of Fame.  This year, the SIG chose Rebecca Smith Pollard as its nominee.

Rebecca Smith Pollard (1831-1917)

Rebecca Smith Pollard's extensive contributions to reading and writing education were grounded in her background as a novelist, journalist, newspaper publisher, poet, hymn writer, and teacher in private schools in Kentucky, Iowa, and Illinois.

Pollard's work in the field of reading represented a pioneer effort in terms of creating a sequential reading program of intensive synthetic phonics, complete with a separate teacher's manual and spelling and reading books, and moving into a broad based graded series of literature readers.  Her series is important for its high correlation of spelling and reading instruction, for its concern for the interests of children, for its incorporation of music into the process of learning to read, and as the forerunner for other phonics systems.

Pollard published her first textbooks in Chicago in 1889 through Western Publishing House, a subsidiary of American Book Company.  Within the next eight years she expanded her readers through six grade levels and produced an advanced spelling book.  As the 20th century approached, her readers were used in every state in the Union and were still in use in Keokuk, Iowa, as late as 1937.  Few women have single-handedly contributed so much to the field of reading.

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