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Irish National Readers

Page extract from a Irish National Readers book containing content entitled 'The Seven Churches-Glendalough'.

Photograph: The Irish National Readers were criticised for their Irish content and lack of relevance to Queensland school children.

After Queensland became a separate state in 1859, the Board of General Education modelled primary education on the Irish National System of instruction. For this reason and because the State Treasury was largely empty, Queensland borrowed the Irish National Readers for use in schools.

The Irish National Readers feature:

  • Bible stories
  • animal stories
  • poems

Bible stories included graduated lessons on scripture history with titles such as Adam and Eve and The History of Joseph. Animal stories included descriptions of stags, bears, camels, cats, cuckoos, foxes and hens. These Readers were also written at a time of high infant mortality and widespread disease and seem morbidly preoccupied with death and the hereafter. In later readers, Bible stories are outnumbered by pieces encouraging kindness, cheerfulness, selflessness and honesty.

The Irish National Readers, prepared for Irish children, were soon criticized for their lack of relevance to Queensland school children. Many pages were taken up with descriptions and woodcut illustrations of Irish scenes, the flora and fauna of the British Isles and English kings and warfare. Australasia was given one brief article. Teachers giving evidence at the 1875 Royal Commission on Education gave almost unanimous evidence on their unsuitability. The Australian Reading Books replaced them in 1878.

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Last reviewed
10 January 2013
Last updated
10 January 2013