Education: First-Grade for First Grade

Most first-grade readers are dull because the authors, uninventive to begin with, are unable to surmount the limitation of "controlled vocabulary"—a controversial theory that beginning readers must stick to a few bite-size words and repeat them often. Whatever the ultimate solution, a sensible first step is hiring real writers who can make even a few words dance.

Manhattan's Crowell-Collier Press is now persuading well-known and imaginative poets, playwrights and novelists to accept the handicap of a 798-word vocabulary and still write primers that six-year-olds can read for themselves with all the delight they...

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