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Values, leaders and "My Weekly Reader": An historical study

Walter Duane Carpenter, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Weekly Reader—an educational and news-oriented publication used in American elementary schools—was originally titled My Weekly Reader. It was first published in September, 1928, by American Education Publications, in Columbus, Ohio. Initially, there was only one version, which eventually became the fourth-grade edition. It was so well received by both teachers and students that, within 18 months, two more editions were added. By the end of the 1930s there were grade-specific editions for each of the six elementary school grades. ^ The study is based on a content analysis of the original, fourth-grade edition. One aim of the study was an attempt to identify—and trace over time—values and underlying assumptions found in the publication. The study focuses on three time periods, for a total of nine years. Each period is addressed in a separate chapter: (1) Chapter 4: 1928–1932. (2) Chapter 5: 1941–1945. (3) Chapter 6: 2002–2003. ^ Weekly Reader has changed significantly since 1928, yet the study was able to identify some recurring patterns, values and ideas. One recurring pattern is the manner in which negative events are portrayed. A comparative analysis was done on several events: (1) the Depression of the 1930s, (2) World War Two of the 1940s and, (3) the space-shuttle Columbia disaster and the Iraq war of 2003. ^ The basic tendency was avoidance. When not possible to avoid an event, and it was widely reported in the media, it was introduced to readers gradually, when possible. Taking action and doing something was emphasized; assisting others, in particular, was stressed, thus helping to “frame” the event in more positive terms. ^ Other values include the importance of reading, history, nature, animals, science, and technology. Leaders are usually described as famous or great, or are high-ranking government officials. Heroes are often portrayed as wearing uniforms and risking their lives for others. Themes of cultural identity and ideology can be seen in the assumption of loyalty to the state, loyalty based on America's greatness and shared values. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|History, United States|Education, History of|Education, Elementary

Recommended Citation

Carpenter, Walter Duane, "Values, leaders and "My Weekly Reader": An historical study" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3104607.