Teach Your Children to Read with the New England Primer

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As a stay at home mom, I have the privilege of being the main developer of my children’s learning. With a working past in preschool literacy, I thought, “his should be a piece of cake.” Right?


I didn’t realize what a challenge it would be to look through all of the different preschool and toddler curriculum out there. Now, I was looking for Christian based lessons, so that narrowed it down a bit; but one trip to Mardel and I’m swimming in a spreadsheet headache. And there is still the pressure of all the other moms out there who have successfully home-schooled their children since they were one-year-old. Can you relate?


Why we as moms tend to compare our children with someone else’s is beyond me. Maybe it’s our desire to make sure they’re doing well – progressing the way we feel our society or group says we should. And at the rate our society’s education system is falling, I was and am desperate for something better – morally better, something that will challenge the bright minds of my children unlike Common Core.


And that’s when I found it.

Tucked into one of our bookshelves was this little wonderful book called The New England Primer. Originally written in 1680, it was the first published school text printed in America, and the main use of education for our founding fathers.

Primer Gospel ABCs, by Ben Elijah

I wondered how something so useful could be printed in a book so tiny, and I thought – will this be enough for my kids? Granted, my children are very young – the oldest being 2 years old. I figured, the only way to know is if we try it.


Before I go further, you’re probably wondering just what is in this book. Let me give you a quick summary:

• Eloquent prayers for school, morning, evening and before meals
• The alphabet upper and lower case for memory
• Vowels, consonants, double letters in shorthand
• 2 pages of easy syllables
• 3 pages of words 1-6 syllable words

• Bible memory alphabet with pictures

• A quick page of bible history questions and answers
• Alphabet bible memory verses

• Devotionals, short stories of martyrs and people of faith.

Primer Bible ABCs, by Ben Elijah


I thought my daughter would not be interested in a book with such proper language and heavy text. I thought – How in the world did those pioneering moms get their children to sit through reading something like that?


Turns out, she loved this book. I mean, loved It. Like, favorite book to read – loved. Maybe it was the small, kid like size. Maybe it was the crude little pictures in the alphabet bible. She quickly picked up the memory verses and even the bible Q and A. This book is considered to be at a 1st grade learning level, so I was surprised that my two year old picked some of it up so fast. I expected bigger, more colorful learning approaches to get her attention. It really showed me how much we as a society have dumbed down our children’s learning capabilities.


Now, we didn’t attack the whole book at once.

I simply started with short, four-minute sessions on the easiest things, like the alphabet, and then started moving to the easy syllable words. I even wrote out the letters on a dry-erase board so they were easier to see.


She loves the primer, by Ben Elijah

It is very interesting to me that our founding fathers read from something so small, and then wrote something so profound like the Declaration of Independence. They probably didn’t have summer break or holiday time off from their studies – their parents were their teachers, and their home the school. I cannot think of a safer setting to grow confident learners.

Original Intent

From the bible references used in this book, it’s clear to see that the Primer was meant to be studied along-side the bible because it’s filled with so many examples of bible stories. The Q and A page alone would make you think that they knew who Noah, Methuselah and Stephen were because they read about their lives from the original text. As you can see, all the study words in the primer can be found easily in the bible. This tells me that the very people who founded and wrote the laws of our nation were bible readers.


David Barton, of Wallbuilders ministries was one of the ones responsible for resurrecting this print for distribution. He gives a short, helpful intro at the beginning of the primer to guide you through (like why the s look like f ) before you get cracking on the lessons.


You can buy the primer here. It’s only $4.99 for this kid sized hard cover. This one is bigger with larger, more readable text than the blue Walbuilders one; but either one is good.

So, in short, I love using The New England Primer because it’s jam packed with English literacy, bible memorization, and you can use it as an accompaniment to the bible itself. It’s not the only resource I will use, but it’s definitely a main staple. If it was good enough for George Washington, it’s good enough for me.


George Washington Praying
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