The Kentucky Library Research Collections currently has a display featuring early children’s readers. William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) was a U.S. educator who is best remembered for his series of elementary school reading books called McGuffey Readers. McGuffey was a graduate of Washington College in 1826. He began teaching in Ohio frontier schools at the age of 14. During breaks from college studies in Pennsylvania, McGuffey taught elementary school in Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky. In 1823, McGuffey set up a school in the dining room of Reverend John McFarland, a Presbyterian minister, where he taught for three years. During his 10 years as a faculty member at Miami University, McGuffey took interest in public education and began assisting teachers at local elementary schools. He also established a model school in his home for the neighborhood children.
Experts estimate that at least 120 million McGuffey Readers were sold between the years of 1836 and 1960. The sales of the Readers are in a category with the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary. Since 1961, McGuffey Readers have sold at a rate of some 30,000 copies a year. The readers are still in use today at some schools and by parents who homeschool their children.