History of Literacy Timeline

Kristy Green - The University of Kansas


1670's Legislation was passed to require children to learn to read. Curricula was focused on biblical text. The first book used was the Hornbook, which contained the Lord prayer.



Boston printed the first Primer. This book taught the letters of the alphabet while relating to biblical terms. This was the first instruction book in the United States.


Noah Webster released his first spelling book. Better known as the "Blue Back Book" or "The American Spelling Book." This was a very popular book for young children in the nineteenth century.


1820s The focus shifted to the meaning and relevance of reading to a child.


John Pestalozzi is know as the father of modern education. His approach had a huge impact on education today.He belived that everyone could and should learn. Education was the "head," "heart," and "hands" to people.


William Holmes McGruffey created the first kid friendly book. He created the first two, out of six books of his Eclectic series. "The reader taught skills and values through poems, Scripture verse, and didactic stories meant to impart personal examples of the virtuous life." Explorehistory.com

Mid 1800s

"From the mid-1800s through the first decades of the twentieth century, a progressive philosophy of education gained influence among educators. The foremost progressove philosopher of education, John Dewey, advocated a public school system that ductioned meither to preserve priviledged traditions not to prepare students for prevailing socail conditions, but rather to improve students lives and create a society whose benefits accrued to all citizens (Applebee 1974; Cremin, 1989.) (Lipson & Wixson pg 5)


Two British Physicians, W. Pringle Morgan and James Hinshelwood both wrote about "congenital word blindness."



James Hinshelwood, MD, was first physician to advocate for a specific educational approach in Congenital Word Blindness. He recommended "the method of simultaneous appeal to as many cerebral centers as possible." This lead to the multi-sensory approach linking visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities for teaching students with reading disabilities.


Samuel T Orton, MD., recommended the use of all sensory pathways to reinforce the memory patters and strengthen one another. Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman developed a phonics approach following Orton's theories using V-A-K instruction incorporating activities to lint the senses.


Edward Thurndike developed scientific theories that led to the development of objectives measures of student achievement. This lead to ability grouping and differential curriculum.


The Dick and Jane Series

"The authors' approach a historical analysis from three directions: historical events, cameos of the characters, and information about the producers. They provide insights into the life and times of the American people through four decades: the Depression Era of the 1930s; the war and postwar years of the 1940s; the baby boom, homogenized tract housing, industrial impact, and drive-by culture of the 1950s; and the political unrest and breakdown of the nuclear family in the 1960s." http://historyliteracy.org


Blooms Taxonomy It can be viewed as a sequence of progressive contextualisation of the material.


World Federation of Neurology approves dyslexia definition as a disorder manifested by difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, social cultural opportunity. It is dependent upon fundamental cognitive disabilities which are frequently of constitutional origin. (World Federation of Neurology)



No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was proposed by President Bush. It required school who were receiving federal funding to administer a statewide standardized test annually.







Lipson, M. Y., & Wixson, K. K. (2013).Assessment of reading and writing difficulties: An interactive approach (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.