The Catholic National Readers were originally published in the 1890s by Benziger Brothers Publishing. They have been reprinted by Savio Books and Neumann Press in 1997 in hardcover editions. They are frequently compared to the McGuffey's Readers and are illustrated with charming pictures of the sort you'd expect to see in "antique" books. Because of the sometimes archaic language and vocabulary, some homeschoolers (particularly those with more reluctant readers who want stories that are a little easier and a little more fun) prefer the American Cardinal Readers or the Faith and Freedom Readers. The Catholic National Readers are used by Kolbe Academy, Our Lady of Victory School and St. Thomas Aquinas Academy. Kolbe Academy sells some study guides that accompany the books.
Some of the stories in this one I have seen in the "Rare Catholic Stories and Poem" book from Catholic Heritage Curricula. They are delightful. Not all of the lessons in this book have the new words listed, but almost all have a language lesson after the story. It is like reading comprehension or teaching parts of speech.
This one contains stories like "St Elizabeth" and "Our Lady's Flower Society". This book contains dictation exercises with some of the lessons, as well as vocabulary, and comprehension.
This one contains stories like "St Agnes" by Cardinal Wiseman and "Pope Leo XIII". Besides dictation, vocabulary, and comprehension, this book contains also contains pronunciation and vocabulary lessons.
This one contains stories like "The Power of the Blessed Sacrament" and "Rip Van Wynkle". It also contains pronunciation, dictation, vocabulary, and comprehension with the lessons.
This one contains stories like "King Solomn and the Bees", "Joan of Arc", and "Paul Revere's Ride" by Longfellow. This book does not seem to contain as many additional lessons like vocabulary.
I found this volume very useful for early reading practice with my first-grade daughter. We were able to move into this after she finished the Bob Books. The advantage I saw to this particular primer in contrast with the later series (Cardinal or Faith and Freedom) was that it was much harder for her to guess the words because of either the pictures or the heavy repetition so common in other early readers. The passages are very short, although not particularly story like. Some of the phraseology was rather archaic, such as "Has a boy the jug? A boy has not the jug." (p. 15) We didn't find this to be a big problem. There were also some stories where the perspective is so different that it's almost shocking to our modern ears. For example, a story about seals on pg. 60 indicates that children of that time might have been more familiar with seals from their skin used as clothing than being "acquainted" with the animals themselves.
Since we used this volume just for reading practice, we skipped the segments on vocabulary, word recognition and introductory cursive.
Additional review: This is actually two books in one binding - the Primer and Book One. My daughter dove into the Primer right away and is working her way through it. Each lesson begins with the new words listed with phonetic notations. Most of the lessons have some of the text reproduced in cursive writing. The pictures are beautiful and the stories are wonderful and steeped in Catholic culture. The stories in these two are very short and not really full stories. (N.H., 1999)
I am honestly not sure how to use this particular book. It does have spelling words and vocabulary. There are also lessons on Latin Roots, dictation, parts of speech (like synonyms) and abbreviations.
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