NEW ENGLAND PRIMER
The New England Primer was the first textbook used in colonial America to teach children to read. It became the on-ramp to literacy for an entire nation. In addition to the alphabet, vowels, and consonants, the New England Primer included religious and moral lessons drawn from the Bible. The lessons on the ABC’s for reading included “Adam and Eve, their God did grieve,” and, “Thy life to mend, This Book attend,” in reference to the Bible.
Early American Christians developed the New England Primer so that children from all social classes, girls and boys, could read the Bible. Their thinking was revolutionary at a time when only a small part of the population could read and write (literacy), and girls were almost always banned from education. When the New England Primer was being taught to girls in America, there was no such thing as formal public education. These early Christians also founded the first public schools. Their hope was that a Christian society would be created unlike any other—a society in which all people could choose or reject Christianity, and those who chose it would be free to practice it as they read the Scriptures for themselves.
These seeds of literacy planted by followers of Jesus changed the social fabric of the colonies that would become the United States. Innovations by great thinkers like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford happened because these early pioneers valued and promoted literacy because of their Christian faith.