This series of schoolbooks teaching reading and moral precepts,originally prepared by William Holmes who was a professor at MiamiUniversity McGuffey, had a profound influence on public educationin the United States. The eclectic readers, meaning that theselections were chosen from a number of sources, were consideredremarkably literary works and probably exerted a greater influenceupon literary tastes in the United States more than any other book,excluding the Bible.
It is estimated that at least 120 million copies of McGuffey'sReaders were sold between 1836 and 1960, placing its sales in acategory with the Bible and Webster's Dictionary. Since 1961 theyhave continued to sell at a rate of some 30,000 copies a year. Noother textbook bearing a single person's name has come close tothat mark. McGuffey's Readers are still in use today in some schoolsystems, and by parents for home schooling purposes.
The second reader appeared simultaneously with the first andfollowed the same pattern. It contained reading and spelling witheighty-five lessons, sixteen pictures and one-hundred sixty-sixpages. It outlined history, biology, astronomy, zoology, botany;table manners, behavior towards family, attitudes toward God andteachers, the poor; the great and the good. The duties of youth arestressed. Millions of pioneer men and women were alumni of thissecond reader college, they were able to read and writeEnglish.