Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Early Text Samplers at Ackworth School

It is tempting to think that early text samplers were exercises in writing. But writing at the time was considered a separate skill to reading, and a special writing master was employed for both girls and boys. He didn't teach letter recognition, but the specific skills of calligraphy and composition. Text found on Ackworth samplers does not resemble the writing style that was taught at school and is seen in scholars' early copy-books, it resembles text that would be seen in a printed book. Reading matter was in short supply at the school - not because the school could not afford books, but because there were few reading books suitable for school children at the time. Horn books had been commonly used for recognizing letters and syllables. The standard method of learning to read was to learn individual letters and then to progress to learning words of one syllable, followed by words of two, then three, then four syllables. It is interesting to compare Hannah Westcombe's 1783 text sampler with text from a hornbook of 1784. There are many similarities to be discovered. My belief is that the girls when stitching their text samplers were creating tools for literacy for teaching younger girls and, when the time came, for teaching their own children to read.

1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating. I agree with you that the girls were creating a legacy for literacy when making their samplers. So very interesting.
    Thank you for sharing.