What are basal readers?
"Any of a series of books designed to teach children to read. Usually a part of a long-term instructional program, basal (or basic) reading programs include a series of readers, workbooks, activity sheets and a teacher's manual, with lessons planned "
Unger, Harlow G. Encyclopedia of American Education. New York: Facts on File, 1996.
Basal readers have been around for a long time. Some of the most famous are the McGuffey Readers, which were in near constant use in American schools from 1836 to 1960. Using a phonics based system, which emphasized the sounding out of words, over 120 million sets of the McGuffey Readers were sold. Moralistic and ethical in tone, they fell from favor in the early 20th century as America's society began more pluralistic. Here are a few links to McGuffey Reader information:
- Downloadable version of McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader, Revised Edition by Williams Holmes McGuffey from Project Gutenberg
- "McGuffey's Eclectic Readers" from the McGuffey Museum
Another example of basal readers from the past are the Dick and Jane books. Published by the Scott Foresman Company, these books used a whole word, or look-say, method. The Dick and Jane books were published from the 1930's through the 1960's. The whole word method was fiercely contested in the late 1950's with the publication of Rudolf Flesch's book "Why Johnny Can't Read," which advocated a return to phonics based reading instruction. By the late 1960's, Scott Foresman had retired Dick and Jane, but they have been recently republished.
For more information about Dick and Jane books:
Basal readers are still with us, although they have evolved to include supplementary materials such as workbooks, activity sheets, posters, games, cds, and even puppets. However, instructional "basals" are, in essence, reading textboooks.
Basal reading sets will have volumes for each grade with each grade's volumes having units. See a description of the basal reading series, Reading Street, published by Scott Foresman (from the publisher's web site). A teacher's edition of the book accompanies each volume in the series.
Some of the instructional basal reading sets used by schools are published by the following textbook publishers:
- Houghton Mifflin
- Scott Foresman
Finding Basal Readers in the Library
Many of the basal reading series that are currently under adoption by the state of Texas for use in the public schools are housed in the VC/UHV Library on the 2nd floor in the Media Center. They are part of our Curriculum Collection.
To locate a basal reader series in the Library Catalog:
- Do a general keyword search in the Library Catalog for "basal reading textbooks."
- Click on a title from the result list in order to see the complete catalog record. This will give you more information about the series including any supplementary materials that may accompany the series. You can identify the textbooks that contain basal reading stories - you will see "Teachers Ed.", "Student Ed.", or "Individual Story" in the copy/holding information.
If you wish to browse the basal readers, go to the Curriculum Collection in the VC/UHV Library. The staff on duty can find the grade level you need.
Go back to the Library's Home Page where you can do a search in the Library Catalog
Please contact Ask-a-Librarian or the Media Center (570-4199) if you have any questions.