Because of the holidays and the sub-zero temperatures that landed in Ohio last week, this is the first full week of school since mid-December for many Ohio students. We thought we’d mark the occasion by looking at a few McGuffey Readers from Ohioana’s collection.
William Holmes McGuffey was born in 1800 in Pennsylvania. In 1802 his family moved to the Ohio frontier, where he grew up. After graduating from college in Pennsylvania, McGuffey became a traveling instructor in Ohio, Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania, where he would take part-time teaching jobs in subscription schools. In 1826 McGuffey became a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He went on to become president of Cincinnati College and Ohio University and later a professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, where he taught until his death in 1873.
In the mid-1830s, during his time at Miami, McGuffey wrote the first edition of his Eclectic Readers. By the end of the century they had sold more than 100 million copies. Some historians believe the popularity of the Readers was due to their use of everyday objects (“A is for ax“) and text that both students and parents found upbeat and enjoyable. In 1879 Cincinnati artist Henry Farny redesigned the Readers with realistic sketches that closely followed the text and helped maintain the books’ popularity through the end of the century.
Altogether the Readers educated five generations of schoolchildren. Although their popularity waned in the early 1900s, people remembered McGuffey and his books with a sense of nostalgia. The first McGuffey Society was formed in 1918 in Columbus, Ohio by attorney John F. Carlisle and Edward Wilson, editor of the Ohio State Journal. In the 1930s Henry Ford republished the 1857 edition of the Readers at his own expense for use in company classrooms and had the log cabin in which McGuffey was born moved to his Greenfield Village museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Today memorials to McGuffey exist at his Pennsylvania birthplace and at several of the schools where he taught.
Pilkey was born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio. In elementary school he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia; he first created the Captain Underpants character during “time outs” in the school hallway. Although Pilkey’s teachers throughout elementary and high school discouraged his drawing, one of his college professors saw his work and encouraged him to try writing children’s books. His first book was published in 1987.
Pilkey’s book The Paperboy was a Caldecott Honor book; The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. He was recently selected to illustrate a picture book version of “One Today,” a poem written by Richard Blanco and read at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
Morrison was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio. After receiving degrees in English from Howard University and Cornell University, she worked as a university professor and book editor. She began writing fiction as part of an informal group that met to discuss and critique each other’s work. She went to one meeting with a short story about an African American girl who wished for blue eyes; this later became her first novel, The Bluest Eye. To date Morrison has written ten novels as well as children’s books, nonfiction, plays, and a libretto.
The president of the Ohio Board of Education recently criticized The Bluest Eye and questioned its inclusion on the recommended reading list for high school juniors. You can hear Morrison’s response and comments by Ohioana Library Executive Director David Weaver here.
Morrison won the 1977 National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon, a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 for her body of work.
Crutcher was born in Dayton, Ohio, but grew up in a small town in Idaho. After graduating from college, he taught primary and secondary school and spent nearly a decade as the director of an alternative school for at-risk students. He spent the next 30 years working as a child protection advocate and as a child and family therapist. Crutcher’s experience working with at-risk children shows in his books, which tackle difficult subjects with a mixture of gritty realism and sharp humor.
Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but spent her childhood in Toledo and graduated from college there. After spending two years in the Peace Corps and earning a master’s degree, she began writing. Taylor’s books are based on family stories told during childhood gatherings and therefore strongly reflect her own family history. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was only her second novel. In addition to winning the 1977 Newbery Medal, it was a National Book Award nominee, an ALA Notable Book, and a Kirkus Choice and was listed as a New York Times Book Review Best Children’s Book 1970-1980.
Coming in at #94 on the list of “Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009” is the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. Stine grew up in Bexley, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. He began his career by writing humor books for children and created the humor magazine Bananas. Stine wrote his first horror novel for young people in 1986, and went on to create the Fear Street series in 1989 and Goosebumps in 1992. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, and the Goosebumps series has been translated into 32 languages. Stine created an endowment fund for creative writing in his hometown of Bexley, received the Ohioana Career Award in 1999, and was a featured author at the 2009 Ohioana Book Festival.