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During the first several decades, from 1848 to about 1910, the schools in Chester Township didn't have grades as we do now. The first thing the first-time students did was to learn their abc's.  The books that they used were called Primers.  When they finished the primer, the students progressed to the first reader, then to second and on through the fifth reader.  If there were not enough books to go around, students shared their books.  Often older, advanced students would help the beginning students.


The emphasis in their studies was the three “Rs” – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  Additional classes were taught in history, geography and science.  Teachers had to be well versed in many subjects, since they often were teaching students from the first through the eighth grades.


Below are some examples of books used in early classrooms.


This Swinton's First Reader was published by the American Book Company, copyright, 1882, by Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Co.  The book is approximately 5" x 7.5" and contains 56 pages.
On page 22, note that the book refers to "SLATE WORK," indicating that the students did not have paper and pencils, but did their work on slates.



Arithmetic By Grades, Book One, was written by William A. Campbell, District Superintendent of Schools, New York City, and Thomas H. Hughes, Evander Childs High School, New York City.  It was published by Hinds, Hayden & Eldredge, Inc. and copyrighted in 1918.  Its size is approximately 5.5" x 7.5" and contains 168 pages.
According to its preface, "This book, the first in a new series of practical arithmetics, is designed to impart to the pupils a mastery of the fundamental processes in manipulating intergers, familiarty with a few rudimentary fractions, and a facility in simple calculation."



Watson's Complete Speller, Oral and Written was written by J. Madison Watson.  It was published by A. S. Barnes & Co. and copyrighted in 1878, 1880, 1884, and 1885.  Its size is approximately 5.25" x 7.5" and contains 176 pages.
In his introduction, the author states, "Orthography treats of the nature and properties of letters, and the correct spelling and writing of words.  It properly embraces both pronunciation and spelling, as neither can be well taught by itself.
Good Pronunciation is such an easy and clear way of speaking words as gives their correct sounds, syllables, and force of voice.  Its parts are articulation, syllabication, and accent.
Good Spelling is the act of writing and naming the right letters of words."


The books above are part of the Edward J. Kelly book collection.  Mr. Kelly taught in schools in Chester Township and Ottawa County for 36 years.  He also taught one year in Caledonia, Kent County. 

Chester Township
Ottawa County
Michigan, USA