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Learning to read: Friedrich Gedike's primer of 1791

David Paisey


IN a culture still as firmly based as ours on written language, it is hardly possible to overestimate the importance to the individual and to society of the skill of reading. It gives a degree of power, through access to recorded information, from the simple signals of everyday life to complex messages, and through access to the accumulated experience of others and to the legal and other codes of authority. It has further an integrating function, as a means both of communication and participation, and of the dissemination of standards. Its history in European society, from the Reformation which required all Protestants to find their own way to theological salvation through private reading of the Bible, a direction technically facilitated by the recent invention of printing, has been one of conflict between these emancipatory and normative aspects.

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