Fusion: Deakin Exhibits Online

20th century readers


The Pacific Readers were an important development in educational materials in the early 20th century as they provided young Australasian children with the opportunity to learn to read with subject matter more relevant to their direct surroundings in Australia or New Zealand, in contrast to the English settings featured in earlier publications.  Of particular interest are the subtle messages of patriotism embedded within the motivation to publish these books, with the preface commenting that it is never too early to encourage national and patriotic sentiments.

These carefully illustrated books feature stories distinctly from Australasia, such as children enjoying a day in the bush, a conversation with a friendly magpie, and descriptions of native New Zealand trees.

By the 1920’s Australiana was well embedded within early year readers, featuring stories of Australian landscapes and photographs of rural life.  Patriotism was an ongoing theme, with The Federal Readers First Infant Reader featuring a short story about the origins of the colours of the Australian flag and their implied meanings: red for brave, white for pure, and blue for true.  Short poems and songs embracing the beauty and spirit of Australia also feature alongside tributes to England including short histories of English kings and queens.

The subject content ranged from educational to entertaining, with The New Australian School Series First Reader blending the retelling of classic fairy tales and fables with simple stories about everyday happenings and objects.

Targeted towards the more advanced reader, Easy Stories for Australian Children: A Junior Reader of Australian History provided 44 stories of Australian exploration, discovery and settlement including accounts of explorers, locations, geographic discoveries and Australian settlement and development.