Primary Language Lessons

Emma Serl
updated by Margot Davidson
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There is something very elegant about children’s books from the late 1800s and early 1900s – a certain je ne sais quois that imbues the materials with a grace and a polish that is absent from many of today’s books. This elegance is particularly true when looking at textbooks of bygone eras – they are beautiful.

But, these elegant texts are also hard for a modern child to appreciate. Often reprinted as facsimile editions, these textbooks don’t grab the average child’s attention. The text is hard to read, examples don’t make sense in light of today’s realities and the color scheme is usually off-white with heavy black text and hard-to-see pictures.

Enter Margot Davidson and her reprint of the 1911 classic grammar book for children – Primary Language Lessons (PLL). Davidson has taken the good from the past. PLL by Emma Serl beautifully weaves art appreciation, dictation exercises, copywork and grammar lessons into a cohesive whole to teach children about our native language, English. The original is a beautiful language arts text for third graders (or a two-year course for second through third graders).

However, Davidson has taken this old text and renovated to create a new, very usable text for today’s student. She’s added color prints to the book to make the appreciation of art that much more enjoyable. She’s changed the font to a very readable “Times New Roman” and printed the book on standard-sized heavy bond paper. The exercises and examples have been modernized a bit to reflect common practices. Also, the book has a bit of Catholic flavor in some of the new memorization pieces. A spiral binding aids in really using this revised edition.

As the saying goes, “everything old is new again” and Davidson’s PLL certainly reflects that saying!

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