Voice (reads): McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer: Lesson One.

In the early 1800s, phonics-based instruction was sweeping the nation. 

Voice (reads): A, and, eat, rat.

Students across the country were using books like the McGuffey Eclectic Readers to learn how to read. 

Voice (reads): A, E, D, N, R, T.

Meanwhile, the education system was undergoing a massive overhaul. In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to require that all children attend at least some amount of formal schooling. By 1918, every state in the country had passed a law requiring universal public education. 

Voice (reads): A rat. A cat. A cat. A rat. A cat and a rat. (McGuffey, 2010)

Now, you may be wondering: did these early readers struggle with the complex orthography, or spelling rules, of the English language as much as even proficient readers do today? They sure did.

Remember Noah Webster, the lexicographer and phonics-advocate from our last episode? During his lifetime, Webster published multiple dictionaries, including the predecessor to those published by the ubiquitous Merriam-Webster today. Two of Webster’s lexicons, one published in 1806 and the other in 1828, proposed a series of spelling reforms, in an attempt to homogenize American English and differentiate it from its British counterpart. For example, Webster introduced the Americanized spellings of words such as “color” (c-o-l-o-r) and “favorite” (f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e), dropping the British “u”. 

However, Webster did not stop at removing extraneous vowels. Instead, he advocated for a complete overhaul of English orthography in one of the first organized attempts to simplify the language. In Webster’s English, inspired by an earlier phonetic system developed by Benjamin Franklin, words adopted much more intuitive spellings, with notable examples including “m-a-s-h-e-e-n” for machine, “t-u-n-g” for tongue, and, my personal favorite, “s-o-o-p” for soup. While Webster’s adaptations never really caught on, several other figures throughout early American history have attempted to create their own, simpler versions of the English language. 

In 1906, Scottish industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie founded an institution called “The Simplified Spelling Board,” which included 30 writers, linguists, and scholars. The group’s mission was to develop a simplified version of English that could be phased in over the course of several years. The board’s recommendations included changing all hard “s”s to “z”s, and replacing “-ed” suffixes with a single “t,” such that the word “surprised” could conceivably have been spelled “s-u-r-p-r-i-z-t.” While this may seem a bit extreme, the board’s recommended spellings were actually fairly well-received. They were endorsed by the New York Board of Education and received outspoken support from President Theodore Roosevelt, who issued an executive order in 1906 requiring the Government Printing Office to conform to the new orthography immediately. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a step too far. The American people reacted poorly to this hasty overhaul of their language, and Roosevelt’s new spelling initiative was thoroughly lampooned by both the British and American press. The executive order was largely ignored by the American people, but the simplified English orthography was not without its supporters. Satirist and author Mark Twain allegedly wrote a letter to Carnegie complaining about the failure of the new spelling initiatives, writing “I am sorry as a dog, for I do love revolutions and violense”—with the final word here spelled “v-i-o-l-e-n-s-e.” 

Eventually, the press moved on, as did America’s students. Complex spelling rules or no, literacy rates skyrocketed at the turn of the century. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that around 92% of Americans over the age 14 were literate by the year 1910. This was a major success. Of course, the American education system was still riddled with flaws. The percentage of students who were illiterate goes up astronomically when you focus on individuals who were Black, Indigenous, or members of other historically excluded groups. However, literacy rates across the board were on the rise, which seemed like a positive sign. That said, despite these rising literacy rates, a new method of teaching reading and writing was beginning to take over the American education system—a method that stood at odds with the phonics-based instruction of the McGuffey Readers. 

From the Iowa Reading Research Center, I’m Meg Mechelke, and this is A Novel Idea. In this episode, we will explore the intersection of reading instruction and 20th-century popular culture by taking a look at a wide range of period publications, from children’s literature to controversial exposés.

In our last episode, we looked at a method of literacy instruction called “the whole-word approach.” By the early 1900s, this style of teaching was beginning to gain major traction in the United States. In whole word language instruction, students are encouraged to guess at an unknown word’s meaning based on its context, rather than by decoding the word sound-by-sound, using phonemes. In the early 1900s, this emphasis on meaning over decoding began to work its way into mainstream theories of pedagogy. 

In 1908, literacy researcher Edmond Huey published The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, which was hugely influential to the whole word movement and the course of literacy education in general. Remember Edward Thorndike, the psychologist and researcher from our last episode? He and Huey were contemporaries who agreed on many points. For example, both supported the idea that words should be read as holistic visual signifiers, rather than broken down into their component parts. They also were both advocates of silent reading, and did not see a compelling reason to encourage early learners to practice oral reading or to listen to others reading aloud.

Fumiko Hoeft: As a lot of people can imagine, there's a visual processing going on because you see the visual text, and then that comes into the brain in the visual area at the back of the brain.

This is Dr. Fumiko Hoeft, the director of the University of Connecticut’s Brain Imaging Research Center, giving a quick overview of what reading looks like in the brain. 

Fumiko Hoeft: And then some things that people might not be much aware of is that there's an integration with sound that happens, even though you're not actively hearing sounds, and that is in the auditory cortex. So that’s kind of the basic process. The key part is that there’s processing of auditory information, which we call phonological processing, and that is very important, even though it feels like it's more of a visual act to many people.

According to Hoeft, successful reading involves both visual and auditory input. For this reason, most students require more than just silent reading to become proficient readers. They also need explicit instruction in breaking down the sounds of language, or “phonological processing,” as Hoeft called it.

However, Huey did not believe this to be true. Consider the following excerpt from his work, in which he advocates for a meaning-first style of literacy instruction that explicitly ignores both the auditory and verbal facets of language learning.

“It is not indeed necessary that the child should be able to pronounce correctly or pronounce at all, at first, the new words that appear in his reading, any more than that he should spell or write all the new words that he hears spoken. If he grasps, approximately, the total meaning of the sentence in which the new word stands, he has read the sentence.” (Huey, 1908)

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, this style of reading instruction became the norm in classrooms across the country. It was championed by a number of progressive reformers, many of whom paved the way for hugely beneficial changes to the nation’s education system. However, at the same time, phonics instruction was largely abandoned, and children were instead taught to recognize words via visual cues, such as the word’s first letter, the length of the word, or an accompanying image. This method would eventually come to be known as the “look-say” method of language instruction, as students were prompted to look at the word and then say it in its entirety. Today, we understand this practice as being generally detrimental to students’ literacy development.

For example, imagine that two students are reading the same book. The text reads “The dog is happy,” and there is a picture of a cheerful-looking dog next to a full food bowl. Let’s say both students initially misread the sentence as “The dog is hungry.” A student who had been taught to decode would be able to slow down, go back and break the word down into its phonemes: /h/ /a/ /p/ /y/. “Happy.” A student who had been taught only using the look-say method would have to rely on the accompanying picture to decide what word made sense in context. In this example, both students might ultimately end up with the same result. Or, the look-say student might make several incorrect guesses; “the dog is heavy, “the dog is healthy,” and so on. And what happens when this student is asked to read a book with no pictures? 

Like whole-word instruction, the look-say method required students to learn words logographically rather than phonetically. In simpler terms, this means students were encouraged to recognize each word as its own unique symbol, rather than being taught to break words down into letters or syllables. While it is true that many proficient readers process words automatically, rather than consciously breaking them down into letters or syllables, early readers often do not possess the ability to do this effectively. In a journal article about the results of a 2005 study on sight word learning, reading researcher Linea Ehri claimed that the development of automatic word reading is a process that occurs slowly over time, not a conscious choice that readers can make. In fact, Ehri argues that automatic word recognition is facilitated by a students’ ability to form connections between letters and sounds within a word. So without explicit decoding instruction, students are unlikely to ever develop the kind of word automaticity that the look-say method required.

Because of this, when look-say students encountered words they did not recognize, they were typically encouraged to guess a word that would make sense in context. And while they may sometimes have been successful, these students are not actually decoding the individual words on the page. This could lead to difficulties gaining meaning when students progress to more complex texts or need to use their reading skills to gain content knowledge in other areas. 

Throughout the 1930s, the look-say method was the dominant form of literacy instruction in the United States. Its pervasiveness was supported in part by the rising popularity of children’s picture books.

For the first illustrated book written specifically for children, we have to go all the way back to 1658, when the book Orbis Sensualium Pictus was published by philosopher John Amos Comenius. Remember him from our previous episode? Comenius was a critic of phonics, and his work is commonly referenced by whole-word and whole language advocates today. Comenius’s picture book, the title of which translates from Latin to “Visible World in Pictures,” was created with something like the look-say method in mind. His goal with this book was to teach children to memorize words and learn to associate them with pictures. He believed this would be a more tangible and enjoyable method of literacy instruction than explicit phonics lessons.

That said, the picture book as we know it did not really come into vogue until the latter part of the 19th century, when illustrator Randolph Caldecott—of Caldecott Award fame—began to create children’s books in which the images were an integral part of the storytelling, rather than just ornamentation. Over the next few decades, new developments in printing technology, along with a shift in common educational practices, launched this new type of picture book into the cultural mainstream. These books included vivid, detailed illustrations that were perfect for look-say literacy interventions.

The intersection of look-say instruction and children’s literature is perhaps best encapsulated in the wild popularity of the Dick and Jane series, written by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp throughout the mid-20th century.

Child’s voice (reads): Jane said, “Run, run. Run, Dick, run.” (Gray & Arbuthnot, 1946)

The characters “Dick” and “Jane” were first introduced in 1930, in Gray’s own series of books— the Elson-Gray readers. In 1940, the Elson-Gray series ended, and Gray and Sharp spun these characters off into their own series of primers—short books intended for classroom use. The Dick and Jane primers presented young readers with simple words repeated throughout a text that was rich with easily understandable illustrations intended to support comprehension. The hope was that if students said the words enough, and associated them with meaningful enough images, they would internalize those words and thus be able to read them in the future. 

Both the Dick and Jane books and the earlier McGuffey readers are historical examples of something we call “basal readers.” These readers include simple stories that typically progress from less to more difficult. In some ways, these readers are similar to today’s decodable texts, which are often supported by science of reading advocates. 

Today, decodable texts are typically labeled with the syllable types, letter pairings, or spelling rules that are used within the book. For example, a low-level decodable book might include only short, closed-syllable words, such as “cat” or “bed,” whereas a higher-level text might focus on R-controlled vowel sounds or digraphs. The systematic nature of modern decodable texts allows educators to provide students with reading material that contains only words students have been explicitly taught to decode. As students progress, they are assigned readers that feature increasingly complex words and structures, all of which have been explicitly taught. Students who use these decodable readers are more likely to use the decoding strategies they have been taught and are therefore more likely to read with accuracy. This can increase students’ confidence and self-efficacy around reading. It is worth noting that traditional picture and chapter books still have a place in science of reading-aligned literacy classrooms. For example, these texts can be great ways to teach students about diverse text structures and new vocabulary. However, decodable texts are more effective when it comes to learning to read the words on the page, due to the systematic way they are written. 

All that said, today’s decodable readers are a far cry from historical basal readers, like the McGuffey series and the Dick and Jane books. The problem with these readers is that they did not always adhere to a strict, evidence-based scope and sequence. For example, while the McGuffey readers often included phonics instruction to support student learning, the Dick and Jane series did not. Additionally, while the Dick and Jane readers did include the kinds of simple, monosyllabic words you might find in a lower level decodable text, these words were not introduced in a specific order. For example, a student might read a Dick and Jane book that included some decodable words, such as “cat,” “mat,” and “hat,” but also included more complex words, like “pear” or “home.” Without the clear and strict organization of modern decodable texts, or at least the basic phonics instruction of a McGuffey reader, the Dick and Jane series provided very few benefits to emerging readers.

Here is an example of how someone might use a Dick and Jane story to teach reading using the look-say method.

Teacher (reads): “Dick went to the hen house. Spot and Puff went too. Oh! Said Dick. Look at the…”

Here, the teacher pauses. This word is unfamiliar to the students.

Teacher: Does anyone know what this word is? Let’s look at the first letter. Do we know any words that start with “e”?

Next, the teacher might encourage the students to look at the pictures in the book.

Teacher: What is this a picture of?

Student: An egg!

Teacher: That’s right. In the picture, Dick is looking at an egg. So we know that the word in this sentence is what?

Student: Eggs!

Teacher: That’s right. This sentence says, “Look at the eggs.” 

Notice that the words in this excerpt do not follow a common pattern. While a modern decodable text would probably focus on words with a similar vowel sound and consonant pattern, the Dick and Jane books generally lacked this structure.

Also, in this example, the teacher never encourages the students to break the word down into smaller parts or to sound it out. Instead, students are asked to use context clues and to memorize the word logographically. These whole word strategies were common during the height of the Dick and Jane era. They can sometimes work well when the text is illustrated, and the unknown words are short and easy to remember. But how would these strategies work while reading a longer, more complicated text with words such as “photosynthesis” or “metabolism?”

Natalie Wexler: The theory was that kids could just memorize all the words they would need to read, and that's why these Dick and Jane books were very repetitive.

This is Natalie Wexler, an education correspondent who has written extensively on the history of various American reading instructional methods.

Natalie Wexler: It would be like: “Oh, look, Jane, look. See Spot Run. Spot runs. Here Spot.” I mean it was... there was no storyline. And kids were not being taught how to sound out "Spot” or any of those other words, but they would quote-unquote “read” the books because you could memorize them. Of course, when you got to more sophisticated books that used other words and you didn’t know how to sound them out, you were going to hit a wall. 

Even in the 1950s, not everyone was impressed with look-say teaching and Dick and Jane’s ubiquity. Parents and educators alike were hungry for a new perspective on teaching reading to America’s youth. In 1955, Dr. Rudolf Flesch gave them just that when he published his smash hit Why Johnny Can’t Read, and what you can do about it.

Early in his career, Flesch was primarily interested in the art of readability, or crafting clear, legible writing. As a result of this, he became curious about the connection between the science of linguistics and the skills of reading and writing. To learn more, he wrote a letter to Dr. Leonard Bloomfield, a distinguished Yale professor, about the intersection between linguistics and literacy instruction. Among other things, Bloomfield told Flesch that from a linguistic perspective, the only scientific way to teach reading was to do it by teaching both the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make—in other words, by explicitly teaching decoding skills. Later, Flesch would apply what he had learned from Bloomfield to teaching a child how to read.

Natalie Wexler: He was asked by a neighbor to tutor her son who was, I don’t know, fourth or fifth grade, but was going to be held back because he was struggling with reading. And so Flesch said, okay, I’ll give it a try, or whatever. And he was horrified to discover that this child had not learned how to sound out words.

This is Natalie Wexler, talking now about Flesch’s first exposure to the extent of America’s literacy crisis.

Natalie Wexler: Like, he asked him to read the word “kid,” k-i-d, and the boy guessed it was kind, K-I-N-D, and this led Flesch to discover that, as he put it, the American schools were trying to teach kids how to read as though we had a system of hieroglyphics rather than an alphabet where letters corresponded to sounds in words.

Flesch claims this experience is what inspired him to write his book.

Natalie Wexler: And so he, you know, wrote this eminently readable and quite passionate book about denouncing, essentially, the way American schools were trying to teach kids how to read and failing.

With 222 pages of simple-but-scathing prose, Flesch’s book took the country by storm. It was a national bestseller for 37 weeks straight and was also published serially in multiple newspapers. The book was celebrated by parents and reviewers alike. Linguist Robert Anderson Hall Jr. praised Flesh as “bitingly sarcastic but devastatingly accurate,” and “on the side of the angels in the teaching of reading.” Publisher’s Weekly called the exposé both an “indignant attack on the modern way of teaching children to read” and a “blockbuster of a book that will start controversy up and down the country.”

As it turned out, this was a more than apt description. Though Flesch was not the first to advocate for a reintroduction of decoding skills to literacy instruction, his fiery condemnation of the whole-word approach sparked an outrage amongst many educational publishers and reading professionals. While Flesch sometimes criticized educators for the failures of current teaching methods, he more often took aim at the publishers and researchers who were publishing look-say curricula despite a lack of convincing evidence that it was working. While some publishing houses did decide to release new textbooks that included explicit phonics instruction in response to Flesch’s book, many others stood firm. It would take another ten years or so before the idea of increased phonics instruction began to gain lasting traction in the United States.

However, the cultural impact of Flesch’s book is undeniable. Its 1983 sequel, Why Johnny Still Can’t Read was also a best seller. The titular phrase has become fodder for several spin-off news headlines, including “Why Johnny Can’t Deep Read,” “Why Johnny Can’t Read the Bible,” and more. It even provided the inspiration for Don Henley’s 1982 single, titled, you guessed it, “Johnny Can’t Read.” 

Furthermore, Flesch had a heavy hand in the downfall of the Dick and Jane books.

To him, these readers represented the epitome of the look-say method’s flawed approach. His criticisms of the series were harsh and utterly unforgiving. He described the books as “artificial sequences of words—meaningless, stupid, [and] totally uninteresting to a six-year-old child or anyone else.” He also believed that the type of look-say reading taught using primers like the Dick and Jane novels was overly simplistic and impossible to apply to real-world reading, arguing that it left children totally unequipped to decode new and unfamiliar words. 

While Flesch definitely took his hatred of the Dick and Jane series to the extreme, these sentiments resonated with both parents and educators. While the debate over phonics was far from settled, one thing was clear. When it came to early readers, Americans were ready to move on from the perfect pastel world of Dick and Jane.

Enter Theodor Geisel, better known by his pseudonym: Dr. Seuss. 

In 1954, a writer named John Hersey explicitly suggested that the banal content of the Dick and Jane readers was the root of America’s literacy problem. Seuss’s publishers read these words and latched onto the idea, immediately commissioning Seuss to write a book that could be taught using the look-say method but that was more interesting than the traditional Dick and Jane stories. Seuss was given a list of 350 preapproved words and asked to synthesize them into a story for first graders. The project that emerged would later be published as The Cat in the Hat, arguably Seuss’s most famous work — and the one that made him enough money to turn to writing as a full-time career.

Voice (reads): “Have no fear!” said the cat. “I will not let you fall. I will hold you up high as I stand on a ball. With a book on one hand! And a cup on my hat! But that is not all I can do!” said the cat. (Seuss, 1957)

This book straddled the line between phonics instruction and the look-say method. On the one hand, the book’s structure is consistent with the look-say ideal. Early readers can admire the cartoon illustrations of items such as a cup, a cake, a rake, a little toy ship, and milk on a dish, using the illustrations to help them decipher the words. On the other hand, the book’s use of rhyming words and word families—as exemplified in the book’s title—also primes children’s phonological awareness, as it introduces them to the relationship between letters and the sounds they make, which is an important pre-phonics skill. 

And Seuss was aware of the line his book was treading. In a letter he wrote to Random House in 1956, he states:

Dr. Seuss (voice actor portrayal): According to Houghton-Mifflin […] we've got a possibility of making a tremendous noise in the noisy discussion of Why Johnny Can't Read. (Neary, 2007)

He then continues:

Dr. Seuss (voice actor portrayal): If Houghton Mifflin is right, we'll be plumb in the middle of a great educational controversy. (Neary, 2007)

However, controversy or no, The Cat in the Hat became an overnight success, flying off of the shelves of bookstores everywhere and popping up in classrooms across the country.

For many educators and caregivers, Geisel’s exciting new children’s book seemed to be the solution they’d been looking for. Though the book contained only small, easily memorizable words, it was also fun, clever, and engaging. 

“Mr. Geisel put on his literary straight jacket with a purpose,”

said The New York Times.

“It’s a ‘reader,’ a school book, evidence of an attempt to pep up the pallid stuff too many first graders have been getting during lesson time.” (Canfield, 2019)

Other critics described the book as a “karate chop to the weary little world of Dick, Jane, and Spot,” and “a book to rejoice seven- and eight-year-olds and make them look with distinct disfavor on the drab adventures of standard primer characters.”

Even Rudolf Flesch, staunch enemy of both the look-say method and the Dick and Jane franchise, was a fan of the cat’s wild antics, stating:

“There is something about it. A swing to the language, a deep understanding of the playful mind of a child, an undefinable something that makes Dr. Seuss a genius, pure and simple.” (Canfield, 2019)

Though he found the development of the book somewhat draining—apparently writing a book with only a few hundred unique words was a challenge, even for him—Seuss was gleeful over The Cat in the Hat’s success. He believed that this work had proved to children that learning to read could be fun, and is on record as calling this book his proudest accomplishment, specifically because it had “something to do with the death of the Dick and Jane primers.”

However, in the wake of The Cat in the Hat’s wild success, a part of Rudolf Flesch’s criticism had been missed. Yes, Flesch had derided the banality of Dick and Jane readers as one reason why they were not helpful in teaching children to read. However, the bulk of Flesch’s argument had revolved not around the types of stories we provide our children with, but rather with the lack of explicit phonics instruction in American classrooms. Parents, publishers, and educators alike were thrilled with the emergence of this new wave of interesting and engaging primer-like children’s books, but on the topic of phonics instruction versus the look-say method, change was negligible. Even Seuss himself has noted this failure, stating in an interview he gave later in life:

Dr. Seuss (voice actor portrayal): There [was an] assumption that a child could learn just so many words each year, so they didn't need phonics. And that turned out [to be] absolutely false. (Conklin, 1986)

It would take the work of several more researchers to draw the core of Flesch’s argument—the value of explicit phonics instruction—into the forefront of literacy debates in the United States. Find out more about these researchers and their contributions to the modern field of literacy instruction in our next episode of A Novel Idea.

A Novel Idea is a podcast from The Iowa Reading Research Center at the University of Iowa. It’s written, produced, and mixed by me, Meg Mechelke. Editing by Sean Thompson, and expert review by Nina-Lorimor Easley and Lindsay Seydel, with additional review provided by Grace Cacini, Natalie Schloss, and Olivia Tonelli. Fact checking by Maya Wald. Additional voiceover work from Kathleen Guerrero and Colin Payan.

For further credits, including audio and music attribution, please see the link in the show notes. 

Visit us online at irrc.education.uiowa.edu to find more episodes and additional literacy resources for educators and families. Again, that’s irrc.education.uiowa.edu. You can also follow us on Twitter at @IAReading. 

If you want to help spread the word about A Novel Idea, subscribe, rate, and leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts. Institutional support for this podcast comes from the University of Iowa College of Education and the Iowa Department of Education.



Dr. Fumiko Hoeft, director, University of Connecticut Brain Imaging Research Center

Natalie Wexler, J.D., author, The Knowledge Gap

Audio Clips

McGuffey, W. H. (2010). McGuffey’s eclectic primer, revised edition. In J. M. Smallheer (Ed.) Short Nonfiction Collection Vol. 019. Librivox. (Original work published 1881).

Additional voiceover work provided by Colin Payan and Kathleen Guerrero.


Ankrom, R. (2011). William S. Gray Jr.: The man who taught millions to read. Historical Society of Quincy & Adams County. 

Benson, E. (2003). Intelligent intelligence testing. Monitor on Psychology, (34)2.

Boulton, D. (n.d.). Pat Lindamood and Nanci Bell: From phonemic awareness to comprehensional imagery [Interview]. Children of the Code.

Canfield, D. (2019). The fascinating story of how Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss created The Cat in the Hat. Entertainment Weekly, Meredith Corporation.

Conklin, E. (1986). Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss doing in Dick and Jane. UPI. United Press International, Inc.

Ehri, L.C. (2009). Learning to read words: Theory, findings, and issues. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9(2), 167-188. (Original work published 2005).

Flesch, R. (1955). Why Johnny can’t read: And what you can do about it. Harper & Brothers.

Gabriel, T. (1996). ‘Oh, Jane, see how popular we are.’ The New York Times, The New York Times Company.

Gilinsky, R.M. (1981). New prod for reading teachers. The New York Times, The New York Times Company.

Go, I. (2019). How Dr. Seuss changed education in America. The New Yorker, Conde Nast.

Goodman, Y. (1989). Roots of the whole-language movement. The Elementary School Journal, 90(2), 113-127. University of Chicago Press.

Gray, W.S., & Arbuthnot, M.H. (1946). Fun with Dick and Jane. Scott, Foresman and Company.

Grugan, R. (2016). Phonics versus "look say” or “whole word” method in teaching. The Hills Montessori.

Hall, R.A. (1955). [Review of the book Why Johnny can’t read: And what you can do about it, by R. Flesch]. Language, 32(2), 310-313, The Linguistic Society of America.

Harper & Brothers. (1955). Why Johnny can’t read [Advertisement]. Publishers Weekly, 167(8), 13.

Huey, E. (1908). The psychology and pedagogy of reading. The Macmillan Company.

Jones, P.A. (2016). When Theodore Roosevelt tried to reform the English language. Mental Floss, Minute Media.

Lorimor-Easley, N. (2020). The role of decodable readers in phonics instruction. The Iowa Reading Research Center.

Neary, L. (2007). Fifty years of ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ NPR Morning Edition, NPR. 

Popova, M. (2012). A brief history of children’s picture books and the art of visual storytelling. The Atlantic, The Atlantic Monthly Group.

Ravitch, D. (2000). Left back: A century of failed school reforms (pp. 322-366). Simon & Schuster.

Seuss, Dr. (1997). The cat in the hat (50th anniversary ed.). Random House Books for Young Readers. (Original work published 1957).

Shanahan, T. (2018). Should we teach with decodable text? Reading Rockets.

Snyder, T (Ed.). (1993). 120 years of American education: A statistical portrait. National Center for Education Statistics.

Additional Music

“Bourree” Joel Cummins (YouTube Audio Library)

Licensed under YouTube Audio Library License


“(Put On Your) Dancing Pants” Reid Mathis (YouTube Audio Library)

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“Darktown Strutters Ball” E’s Jammy Jams (YouTube Audio Library)

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“Driving Concern” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License



“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” Advent Chamber Orchestra (freemusicarchive.org)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License



"Enter the Party" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

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“No. 9 Esther’s Waltz” Esther Abrami (YouTube Audio Library)

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“Goat” Wayne Jones (YouTube Audio Library)

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“Heavy Drums Bass” Audionautix (YouTube Audio Library)

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"I Knew a Guy" Kevin MacLeod (YouTube Audio Library)

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“Marty Gots a Plan” Kevin MacLeod (YouTube Audio Library)

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“Rollin at 5 - 210” Kevin MacLeod (freemusicarchive.org)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License



“The Show Must Be Go” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

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“The Urban Symphonia” Unicorn Heads (YouTube Audio Library)

Licensed under YouTube Audio Library License