William H. Elson
William Harris Elson was first
known for his work on the Indiana State Reading Circle
In the early 1930s, William Harris
Elson capped off a successful career as an educator and author of textbook readers
by creating the "Fun with and Dick and Jane"pre-primer readers with
co-author William Scott Gray. Dick and Jane, their families, friends, and pets
entered the popular culture as symbols of childhood, and the books themselves
became synonymous with the first steps in learning to read.
In 1909 The Elson Grammar School
Reader, the first in a nine-volume series of school readers, appeared to immediate
success. The Elson Readers, which the Lost Classics Book Company is reprinting,
were among Elsons earliest creations and go well beyond the scope of the
Dick and Jane books. Following a carefully planned model that stresses
both improving comprehension and developing appreciation for literature, Elson
organized the books in a way that built on the understanding and skills taught
in earlier volumes.
Assisting Elson on the series
were publishing house writers Lura Runkel and Christine Keck. Runkel helped on
the primer and the first and second volume, while Keck worked on the fifth through
the eighth volume.
Obviously both writers were schooled well in Elsons methodology,
as the series displays remarkable consistency and accuracy throughout the entire
set of books.
Through the eighth grade, or
age 13 to 14, each succeeding book in the Elson Readers series introduces students
to increasingly complex genres and better writers. The result of using the series
as intended is better reading skills and comprehension as well as a growing appreciation
for good writing. But the books are so thorough that they may be used individually
and still advance a students understanding and appreciation for the types
of writing in a particular volume.
the below names
for more history
Hugh A. Foresman
William H. Elson
William S. Gray
May Hill Arbuthnot
A Sterl Artley
Born on November 22, 1854 in
Carroll County, Ohio, Elson lived through a tumultuous period, becoming an educator
who helped usher in numerous innovations. Although he did not receive his A. B.
degree from Indiana University until 1895, he was active as a schoolteacher and
as a school administrator for many years before, beginning with his first teaching
assignment in 1881. By 1907 he had established the first technical high school
in the nation in Cleveland, Ohio, where he served as school superintendent from
Elsons contributions to
teaching children to read and appreciate literature included not only the Elson
Readers but many other series for which he served as primary author or editor,
including Good English (3 vols., 1916); Child-Library Readers (9 vols., 1923-34);
and Elson Junior Literature (2 vols., 1932). By the time of his death on February
2, 1935, his books had sold over fifty million copies and were in use in 34 countries
on every continent.
Besides helping to create the
engaging Fun with and Dick and Jane books, William Harris Elson implemented
a development approach to learning reading skills that still works extremely well.
The Lost Classics Book Companys republication of this volume from the Elson
Readers provides access to a book that will provide children with a delightful
and effective learning experience.
David E. Vancil, Ph.D.
Indiana State University
Biographical Dictionary of American Educators.
Edited by John F. Ohles. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978. Alphabetical
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Volume 26. New York: James T.
White & Co., 1937. Pp. 367-68.