Free Traditional Language Arts

Phonics Readers

The New Beacon Readers
The New Beacon Primer by James Hiram Fassett (1921).
The Beacon Second Reader by James Hiram Fassett. (1914).
The Beacon Third Reader by James Hiram Fassett. (1914).​

The Howell Readers
The Howell Primer by Logan Douglas Howell.
First Reader by Logan Douglas Howell. (1911)
Second Reader by Logan Douglas Howell (1911)​

 

Spelling

The Dictation Day by Day spelling series is my favorite traditional spelling program. There is something about learning to spell by doing dictation that is just very effective. I highly recommend this series.

Dictation Day by Day series
Dictation Day by Day: A Modern Speller  second year by Kate Van Wagenen (1909) Begins with graded lessons starting with second grade. Includes review and selections for memorization. (Archive.org)
Dictation Day by Day: A Modern Speller  third year by Kate Van Wagenen (1909) Begins with graded lessons starting with third grade. Includes review and selections for memorization. (Archive.org)
Dictation Day by Day: A Modern Speller  fourth year by Kate Van Wagenen (1909) Begins with graded lessons starting with fourth grade. Includes review and selections for memorization. (Archive.org)
Dictation Day by Day: A Modern Speller  fifth year by Kate Van Wagenen (1909) Begins with graded lessons starting with fifth grade. Includes review and selections for memorization. (Archive.org)
Dictation Day by Day: A Modern Speller  Sixth year by Kate Van Wagenen (1909) Begins with graded lessons starting with Sixth grade. Includes review and selections for memorization. (Archive.org)

The Modern Speller Series
The Modern Speller Book One by Kate Van Wagenen. (1916). This book begins in second grade and goes to the end of fourth grade. Contains daily lessons
The Modern Speller Book Two by Kate Van Wagenen. (1916). Begins with fifth grade and continues through eighth grade. Contains daily lessons.

A High School Spelling Book  by Leonard and Fuess (1910). Just what it says. Lists included frequently misspelled words.

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Grammar and Composition

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. The ultimate English language and composition reference book. Don’t pay for one, find it here online from Bartleby.com

Norman Foerster and J.M. Steadman
Sentences and Thinking: A Practice Book in Sentence Making (1919) by Norman Foerster & J. M. Steadman. This is a great treasure. No one can study it seriously without improving their writing and their enjoyment of writing. This is a high school text.

Franklin Baker and Ashley Thorndike
Everyday English Book One Combines grammar and writing, this book is for grades three and four
Everyday English Book Two This book is for grades five and six.

Franklin Baker and Herbert Abbott
English Composition by Franklin Baker and Herbert Abbott (1908). Well worth a look as the authors go into how to tell a story, how to describe things, and when to stop.

Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellog
Higher Lessons in English: A Work on English Grammar and Composition by Alonzo Reed (1902). This is the text with all of the diagramming instruction. If you are a fan of learning English grammar through diagramming sentences, this is the book you need in your collection.
A Key Containing Diagrams of the Reed Kellogg Higher Lessons in Grammar. by Alonzo Reed. This is the answer key for the above-listed book.
Elementary English Grammar (1894). Also by Reed & Kellogg but for elementary school children.

Ida Brautigam
This series of composition books is very popular with home educators.
Progressive Composition Lessons Book One An excellent stand-alone composition book for students in grades 3 and 4.
The Progressive Composition Lessons Book Two Grades 5 and 6.
The Progressive Composition Lessons Book Three Grades 7 and 8.

Emma Serl’s Language Arts series
Emma Serl was a popular early twentieth-century educator who wrote or co-wrote a number of elementary level textbooks. Some of these are still available in hardcover, but the copyright has expired and you don’t have to pay for these books if you access them online.

Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl. (1911). A longtime favorite of home educating families. Intended for second and third grades.
Intermediate Language Lessons by Emma Serl. (1914) Another longtime favorite of homeschooling families. Intended for use in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.

M.L. Nesbit
Grammarland by M.L. Nesbit. This is a charming storybook in which the parts of speech take on personalities and are judged by Judge Grammar. While not a textbook, children find the stories interesting and memorable. Find this gem free on Google Play.

Edwin Abbott
How to Write Clearly by Edwin Abbott, 1890. An excellent exposition of the principles of clear writing. Intended for older students. Not for the faint of heart.
English Lessons for English People by Edwin Abbott, 1901. This is a masterwork on the use of the English language, and more of a composition book than you might think from the title. Recommended for the college-bound high school student.

William Henry Maxwell
Introductory Lessons in English Grammar for use in intermediate grades  by William Henry Maxwell (1888). A clearly written text that is surprisingly contemporary in approach. Useful for grades four and up.
Advanced Lessons in English Grammar: For use in the higher grades by William Henry Maxwell (1891). Another clearly written and surprisingly contemporary text. Recommended for middle school and high school.
School Grammar by William Henry Maxwell (1907). This is a high school level text.

Ida Catherine Bender and Henry Pendexter Emerson
I’ve not found much information about Henry Pendexter Emerson or Ida Catherine Bender, but they were both nineteenth-century educators. Ida Catherine Bender is listed as a co-author of a number of excellent language arts and graded literature readers, including a few with well-known author James Baldwin.

English Spoken and Written: Book 1 Lessons in Language for Primary Grades  A lovely vintage language book intended to be taught in about third or fourth grade. This text integrates grammar and composition lessons with poetry and good literature. Very highly recommended!
English Spoken and Written: Book 2 Lessons in Language, Literature, and Composition  A continuation of the above series and useful for grades five and six. This is an excellent series. There is a great deal of emphasis on composition.
English Spoken and Written: Book 3 Practical Lessons in English Grammar and Composition  This book appears to be a continuation of the above series but it is certainly useful as a standalone text. It begins at a level appropriate for grades four to six and progresses quickly to a middle school level.

William H. Elson, creator of the Elson Readers.
Good English: Oral and Written book one  Intended for use in third and fourth grades. Nicely done.
Good English: Oral and Written book two  Intended for use in fifth and sixth grades.
Good English: Oral and Written book three  Seventh and eighth grades

Bernard Matthew Sheridan
Speaking and Writing English: A course of study for the eight grades of elementary school by Bernard Matthew Sheridan. (1917). This is a very interesting book that teaches composition in a gentle and sequential manner

Sarah Arnold’s Language Arts series
Sarah Arnold was an educator in the early part of the twentieth century.
With Pencil and Pen: Language Lessons for Primary Schools by Sarah Louise Arnold. (1906). This is a grammar and language arts book that is suited for second-grade level students. There is an emphasis on copywork and composition work.

The Mother Tongue book one: Lessons in Speaking, Reading, and Writing English by Sarah Louise Arnold (1908). This book is the beginning volume of this grammar and composition series. The focus is on learning to use language for expression of thought, and grammar is slowly introduced throughout the text. This volume is intended for the third and fourth-grade student.
The Mother Tongue book two: Lessons in Speaking, Reading, and Writing English by Sarah Louise Arnold (1908). This is a grammar and composition books intended for students in the fifth and sixth grades. There is an intensive focus on grammar in preparation for volume three.
The Mother Tongue book three: Lessons in Speaking, Reading, and Writing English by Sarah Louise Arnold. (1902). This is a grammar and composition book intended for students in about seventh and eighth grades with a strong background in grammar. This volume focuses heavily on composition.

Plans for busywork by Sarah Louise Arnold. (1901). The title doesn’t sound that interesting but this little book is a useful collection of suggestions for independent educational activities in a variety of subjects  for  children from kindergarten age through about grade three.

Manual of Composition and Rhetoric by Sarah Arnold, John Hays Gardiner, and George Lyman Kitteredge. (1907). This is a high school level text.

 

Graded Readers

For those who may be interested, Stanford University has an online exhibition from the Cubberley Education Library of American Primers and Readers from the collection of Richard L. Venezky. “The Venezky Collection contains American primers and readers published between the late 1700s through the middle of the twentieth century.” 

Wheeler’s Graded Readers
Wheeler’s Graded Readers: Primer 
Wheeler’s Graded Readers: First Reader 
Wheeler’s Graded Readers: Second Reader 
Wheeler’s Graded Readers: Third Reader 

Wheeler’s Graded Literary Readers with interpretation: A Fourth Reader 
Wheeler’s Graded Literary Readers with interpretation: A Fifth Reader  
Wheeler’s Graded Literary Readers with interpretation: A Sixth Reader  
Wheeler’s Graded Literary Readers with interpretation: A Seventh Reader
Wheeler’s Graded Literary Readers with interpretation: An Eighth Reader 

 

Everyday Classics
This popular series uses classic stories and poems to inspire the children and includes teacher’s guides. Just a caution, you might want to pre-read some of the selections in the first reader…..

Everyday Classics First Reader by Fannie Wyche Dunne, Franklin Thomas Baker (1922). Please review the stories before you share them with your child. Some of the stories deal very callously with the death of some animals and can be upsetting for the modern child. The stories are in no way realistic and my own son found them hysterically funny but I admit I was a bit disturbed.
Everyday Classics First Reader Teacher’s Manual by Fannie Wyche Dunne, Franklin Thomas Baker (1922)
Everyday Classics Second Reader  (found at the Rossetta Project)

The Teaching of Reading: A Manual to Accompany Everyday Classics Third and Fourth Readers
Everyday Classics Third Reader
Everyday Classics Fourth Reader

The Teaching of Reading: A Manual to Accompany Everyday Classics Fifth and Sixth Readers
Everyday Classics Fifth Reader
Everyday Classics Sixth Reader

The Teaching of Reading: A Manual to Accompany Everyday Classics Seventh and Eighth Readers
Everyday Classics Seventh Reader
Everyday Classics Eighth Reader

 

Stepping Stones to Literature
Stepping Stones to Literature by Sarah Louise Arnold, a prominent nnineteenth-century educator and the author of a number of language arts books.

Stepping Stones to Literature: A first reader. (1897). A sight word reader.
Stepping Stones to Literature: A Second reader. 
Stepping Stones to Literature: A third reader.
Stepping Stones to Literature: A fourth reader. 
Stepping Stones to Literature: A reader for the fifth grade. 
Stepping Stones to Literature: A reader for the sixth grade. 
Stepping Stones to Literature: A reader for the seventh grade 
Stepping Stones to Literature: A reader for the higher grades 

 

The Reading Literature Series
Reading-Literature Series by Harriet Taylor Treadwell and Margaret Free, two schoolteachers who were proponents of the movement to include good literature in children’s reading material, decided to create a children’s reading series based on fables and folk tales on the premise that these types of stories ‘satisfy common needs of childhood’. This particular series is extremely popular in current homeschooling circles. (1910).

Reading-Literature: The Primer by Harriet Taylor Treadwell and Margret Free. (1910). This is a sight word primer and would work best for children who have had some exposure to sight words and basic phonics work. This primer was created using ‘real’ fairy tales and folk stories to encourage children in their desire to learn to read by presenting them with ‘real stories’.

Reading Literature’s First Reader by Harriet Taylor Treadwell. (1911).
Reading Literature’s Second Reader by Harriet Taylor Treadwell and Margaret Free. (1912).
Primary Reading and Literature, a Manual for teachers to accompany The Primer, First, and Second Readers of the Reading-Literature Series by Margaret Free. (1916).

Reading-Literature’s Third Reader 
Reading-Literature’s Fourth Reader
Reading-Literature’s Fifth Reader
Reading-Literature’s Sixth Reader 
Reading-Literature’s Seventh Reader
Reading-Literature’s Eighth Reader 

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The Baldwin Readers
Edited by a master storyteller who lived to tell stories to children, these readers are entertaining and well done. James Baldwin’s purpose in creating this series, one of three that he either wrote or collaborated on, was to instill a love of good stories in children. James Baldwin was a proponent of the movement to include ‘good literature’ in the school readers of the day.
School Reading by the Grades, First Year.  Colorfully illustrated and sight word based, this first-year book is meant for beginning readers. Also contains handwriting instruction.
School Reading by Grades, Second Year .  This volume has some vocabulary and spelling work as well as stories.
School Reading by Grades, Third Year .  This volume has some vocabulary and spelling work as well as stories.
School Reading by Grades, Fourth Year.
School Reading by Grades, Fifth Year .
School Reading by Grades, Sixth Year.
School Reading by Grades, Seventh Year.
School Reading by Grades, Eighth Year.  ​

 

McGuffey Readers
​McGuffey Readers are probably the most popular set of classic graded readers and were first published in the nineteenth century. The original McGuffey readers were published in 1836. All of the McGuffey readers can be found at www.archive.org 

I have chosen the Eclectic Readers, Revised Edition for this list as they appear to be the most recent editions. The “New” readers have a copyright date of around 1920. If I haven’t found a good link to the 1920 edition I substituted a link to the most recent edition I could find a reliable link to.

McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer by Willian Holmes McGuffey. (1920)
The McGuffey First Eclectic Reader, Revised Edition  Uses a combination of sight words and phonics to teach reading.
McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader, Revised Edition  Reading, vocabulary, and spelling.
McGuffey’s New Third Eclectic Reader, Revised Edition  Reading, spelling, and vocabulary.
McGuffey’s New Fourth Eclectic Reader, Revised Edition  Reading, spelling, vocabulary, critical thinking.
McGuffey’s New Fifth Eclectic Reader, Revised Edition  Reading, spelling, vocabulary, critical thinking.
McGuffey’s New Sixth Eclectic Reader, Revised Edition  Reading, spelling, vocabulary, critical thinking.   ​

 

The Elson Readers
The Elson Readers, an early precursor to the Dick and Jane readers, were created by William H. Elson, Lura Runkel, and Christine M. Keck in about 1920.

The Elson Reader’s Primer by William H. Elson and Lura Runkel. (1914). This is not a phonetic primer and sight words are used.
The Elson Readers Book One by William H. Elson and Lura Runkel. (1920). This book is a bit more difficult than one would expect for first grade and it is not a phonetic reader. If you plan to use this book for your beginning reader be prepared to spend more time on sight word recognition.
The Elson Readers Book Two .
The Elson Readers Book Three 
The Elson Readers Book Four
The Elson Readers Book Five
The Elson Readers Book Six
The Elson Readers Book Seven
The Elson Readers Book Eight

 

Memory Work
Selections for Memorizing: complete by Avery Warner Skinner. Poetry and prose selections for memorization for grades one through eight.
Selections for Memorizing: First, second, third and fourth years by Avery Warner Skinner

 

Literature and Literary Criticism

Elementary Guide to Literary Criticism by F. V. N. Painter. (1903).

Essential Studies in American and English Literature by James Baldwin

An Introduction to the Study of English Literature and Literary Criticism: volume two Prose by James Baldwin (google play) (1883). From the preface “This work has been prepared as an introduction to the study of English Literature…”

English Language and Literary Criticism: English Poetry by James Baldwin. (1882).

The Book Lover: A Guide to the Best Reading by James Baldwin. (1884) A guide to reading by a master story-teller. From the introduction, “The courses of reading and the schemes for practical study …are the outgrowth of the author’s long experience as a lover of books and director of reading.” Dr. Baldwin includes suggested courses of reading in philosophy, natural history, history, geography, religion,and more.

A Short History of England’s Literature by Eva March Tappan. (1905).

A Short History of America’s Literature by Eva March Tappan. (1907).