Catholic Homeschool Review

Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved. Keeping It Catholic


 Reading and Readers

This page offers just a few previews of the upcoming book!

The American Cardinal Readers

Faith and Freedom Literary Readers

National Catholic Readers (yet to be added)


American Cardinal Readers

Republished by Neumann Press. Original publishers Benzinger Bros.

Available through Neumann Press, Emmanuel Books, Saints and Scholars, and Seton Educational Media Catalog

Reviewer: Marianna Bartold 


Thanks to Neumann Press, the vintage American Cardinal Readers, a set of elementary to junior high school books, are back in print! First offered in the 1920's, each book in the set features gold-embossing on a beautifully rich burgundy hard cover - a proud, lasting addition to any bookshelf. Each book (or grade level) contains a variety of stories that inspire a young Catholic child or early teen. The American Cardinal Readers could easily be called an early Catholic "book of virtues." Various readers in the set might include any of the following: lives of saints, biographies, short stories, poems and even fairy tales.

For the most part, the readers do not include "Question and Answer" sections for comprehension. They were meant to be readers in the true sense of the word, allowing children the joy of reading alone, if necessary, or to read aloud in class.

The American Cardinal Readers offer lessons in Catholic morality and a sense of the highest Good. Testing the various readers with children, I found they enjoyed the material within and were eager to read and re-read them on their own iniative. The children did well even without the benefit of comprehension study helps. While parents may wish to know if their children understand what they read, Catholic parents may rest assure that all the content is excellent.  The American Cardinal Readers are Keeping It Catholic Kiss Award Winners.


(Specific details of each reader will be found in the review book and added to this page as time permits. To read the review on Book Eight, please see below. Also be sure to read the following reviews of the Faith and Freedom Readers.)


Book Eight  (556 pp.includes reading list), Copyright 1924. Nihil Obstat: Arthur J. Scanlan, S.T.D., Imprimatur + Patrick Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop of New York, April 14, 1926. Burgundy and gold hardcover, black and white text . (@ $15.00)

Book Eight is the crown of the series and an asset to every Catholic homeschool regardless of educational method. It includes the works of Charles Dickens, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Robert H. Benson (the same of Come Rack! Come Rope!), William Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Abraham Lincoln (Letter to Mrs. Bixby, Reverence for Law, The Gettysburg Address), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert Louis Stevenson, Washington Irving, Hilaire Belloc, Henry Van Dyke, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Alfred Tennyson and more.

Centering on six central themes (Early Christian Times, The Feudal Ages, The Civil War, The Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, and Lincoln), this reader begins with an especially helpful introduction on the purpose of good reading habits, materials, memorization, aims and more. Explaining that good literature helps its reader unconsciously assimilate Catholic character and morality, the introduction includes another important message for today's parents and educators: "In some instances, the work of non-Catholic writers has been used where the subject matter embodies sentiments that are Catholic in tone." (emphasis mine) Until recent times, Catholic educators realized well that "non" Catholic was quite different from "anti" Catholic educational resources, that a Christian education might (and could) include inspiration literary works not specificially religious - and yet there was never any question of exposing a child to error in order to learn truth.

At the back, the parent and student will find "Suggestions for Home Reading for Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Years" - a list of classics (with authors' names) we might still find today. Some of them include the following: Girl of the Limberlost, Otto of the Silver Hand, A Child of Mary, A Little Maid of Arcady, A Boy King, The Black Arrow, Treasure Island, Moby Dick and A Lady and Her Letters.

The entire set includes the following books: Primer (98 pp.),  Book One (177 pp.), Book Two (217 pp.), Book Three, (249 pp.), Book Four (282 pp. includes glossary), Book 5 (337 pp. includes glossary), Book 6 (390 pp. includes glossary), Book 7 (not yet received), and Book 8 (556 pp. includes a "classical" reading list). They are available for sale individually (around $15 each) or, of course, by the entire set.

Faith and Freedom Literary Readers

Reprinted by Seton Press. Original publishers Ginn and Co.
 Reviewer: Marianna Bartold

The following Faith and Freedom Readers, unavailable for purchase for many years, are now available through Seton Press, the publishing arm of Seton Home Study, - all in a newer package! No longer spiral-bound copies, each reader sports a glossy paperback cover, each with a different but beautiful religious piece of artwork gracing the front. The inside text and (circa late 1940's through 1950's) graphics are in black and white. Each book may be purchased separately, whether or not your family is enrolled with the Seton Home Study program.

Seton accomplished an admirable job in making these long-ago treasures once more available to Catholic families. The underlying virtues found in the Faith and Freedom Readers are timeless, and so each of the Faith and Freedom Literary Readers are Keeping It Catholic Kiss Winners.




Grade 1 (pre-primer) - Here We Come, This is Our Home, Here We Are Again (64 pp.), copyright 1951. Softcover and artwork St. Joseph and the Child Jesus in glossy color. Inside text and graphics black and white. ($9.00)


The first of the Faith and Freedom readers, this one sets the content tone for the entire series. The underlying themes always point to the virtues in practice. Three pre-primers in one, this reader begins with simple sentences, like "Go up, up, up. Go, Ann, go" and advances to short but sweet stories at the end. There is no table of contents, no question and answer sections and no accompanying phonics lessons.


As an introduction to reading, the pre-primer set was intended for use in conjunction with its original manual, now out-of-print. Parents will want to purchase a separate phonics program of their choice. To easily correlate the Faith and Freedom pre-primer, parents will wish to find a phonics program that both teaches a child to decode words phonetically and offers handwriting practice. In this area, I have found the following tools helpful: Sister Monica Folzer's Professor Phonics; Phonics for Young Catholics (various grade levels available through Seton; ask if Kdg or First Grade is yet for sale); the secular Modern Curriculum Press (books A and B); and/or the secular Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. With the entire Faith and Freedom first grade series and a good, basic phonics foundation, the young child should be reading very well by the end of the year.


The pre-primer features necessary decoding practice for beginning readers via snippets about two Catholic children named David and Ann. The first two sections allow the child to master simple vocabulary words, and the third section repeats learned words and introduces new ones. By the end of the pre-primer, the child will know at least 62 words proficiently and be well practiced in decoding,which is what the goal of phonics.


The accompanying black and white artwork (clothes and furniture styles are circa 1945-50) is a bit old-fashioned, but edifying and modest, featuring family portraits of mother, father, and the two children together. For example, the young child will see David and Ann's father placing a large crucifix on the wall and leading the family in prayer, father suggesting that everyone pitch in and help mother in the kitchen, or the family playing together. The last book page features a short note to the teacher, as well as a word list that was correlated to a teacher's manual that, unfortunately, has not been available for many years.


Grade 1 (Primer) - This is Our Family (190 pp), copyright 1961. Softcover and front cover artwork of The Holy Family in glossy color. Inside text and graphics black and white. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. ($9.00)


Following the pre-primer reader, This is Our Family continues reading practice by featuring vignettes of the Catholic children, David and Ann. The book includes a table of contents, divided by themes entitled Surprises, Fun with Pets, We Play and Work, For Fun, and A Happy Home. As with the first pre-primer, a separate phonics program is necessary. The primer introduces 105 new words but also uses those learned in the pre-primer. The parent may wish to match the word list to their separately purchased phonics program, an easy task to accomplish as the last two pages list which words are introduced in each unit.


Grade 1 (First Reader) - These Are Our Friends (190 pp.), copyright 1961. Softcover and front cover artwork of Jesus and Children in glossy color. Inside text and graphics black and white. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. ($9.00)


The theme of this book centers on daily life, especially small acts of virtue - sometimes after an unkindness given or received. Similar to the primer, this first reader of the Faith and Freedom series divides the book into themes - Friends at Home, Friends at School, The Children's Story Book Friends, Friends Who Help Us, and Story Time with Grandmother. Parents will want to continue with their chosen phonics program, perhaps correlating it the short word list found in the back of the book. The child will learn about 160 new words in this book. There are no drills or comprehension questions. Again the virtues are stressed with short stories about David and Ann like Our Best Helper (our guardian angels), as well as old classics like The Little Red Hen and The Pancake Man.


Following are the three recommended readers for Grade 2, in be used in succession: These Are Our Neighbors, This Is Our Parish, and Catholic Readings for Second Grade. ($10.00 for the first two in the updated, color cover format ; $5.00 for the third as it is spiral-bound)


Grade 2 (Initial Second Reader) - These Are Our Neighbors (253 pp.), copyright 1962. Softcover and front cover artwork St. Martin de Porres in glossy color. Inside text and graphics black and white. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.


Intended for children in the first half of second grade, this reader's features short tales and poems using the 324 words taught with the first grade series and introduced about 227 new words. Virtues and learning experiences about obedience, respect for lawful authority and charity are found through family, neighborhood and animal stories. The selections are found in chapters entitled We Live Together, New Neighbors, School Neighbors, City Neighbors, Story-Time Neighbors, and Farm Neighbors.

The last chapter, Stories We All Like, includes The Little Fir Tree, The Soldier Saint, The Story of St. Bernadette, St. Frances and the Birds, Who Is My Neighbor? (from the New Testament) and G.K. Chesterton's poem, Christ Our King. Like the preceding readers, there are no comprehension questions but a review list of words is found in the back, and an accompanying phonics program is necessary.


Grade 2 (Advanced Second Reader) - This Is Our Parish (253 pp.), copyright 1962. Softcover and front cover artwork of Guardian Angel and Children in glossy color. Inside text and graphics black and white. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.


To be used after completing These Are Our Neighbors, the theme of this book often centers on activities in the parish and parochial school. Building upon previous concepts and introducing about 240 new words, stories are found within chapters like Parish Friends, Learning to Help Others, Laughing Together, Parish Feast Days, The Parish Library and Good Times Together.


This reader is especially geared for children preparing for their First Confession and First Holy Communion. For example, Gifts for God is a short story about children who don't want to go to Mass but learn to understand it after their father explains that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. In addition to a number of other selections focusing on the Mass, there is A Great Feast Day. It is a short story about Holy Thursday, Jesus' institution of the sacrament as His Body and Blood, and His command to the Apostles, and ends with the simple statement that the Catholic priest "changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ every time he offers the Mass."


The child will read quite a variety of stories and a few short poems, including childhood favorites like the legend of the Brownies and The King of the Fishes. Although not all of the selections focus on parish life or are of an obvious religious nature, they usually provide examples about some learned virtue, usually about generosity and trust in God, no matter one's state of life.


Grade 2 (#2 Advanced Second Reader) - Catholic Readings for Second Grade (146 pp.), spiral-bound, soft-cover. This book has yet to be revamped into the newer format, and so it does not list Copyright, Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur information. It follows the basic Faith and Freedom format except these are all stories and they are not subdivided into chapters. Starting off with The Little Blue Angel, the reader finds lovely vignettes of saints like Sts. Bllise, Martin, Anthony, Patrick, Berndette, Margaret Mary, Gerard, Dorothy, and Germain. This one includes The Saint of Little Children, the little Joseph "Beppo" Sarto who grew up to become Pius X, the same pope who allowed little children to receive Holy Communion. His statement remains timely today: "When little children understand that the Host at Mass is really Jesus, they may receive Him into their hearts."


Grade 3: There are three recommended readers, to be used in succession: This Is Our Town, This Is Our Valley, and The Story Tree. ($11.00 each)

Currently being reviewed.


Grade 4: This Is Our Land (416 pp. includes glossary and word list, $14); and the Book of Gladness. The first has been reprinted in the new format; the latter is spiral-bound, currently on sale ($5) and available while supplies last. Currently being reviewed.


Grade 5:  These Are Our People (416 pp. includes glossary and word list) ($15.00) Currently being reviewed.


Grade 6: This is Our Heritage (445 pp. includes glossary and word list) ($15.00) Currently being reviewed.

Grade 6: Catholic Readings for 6th Grade (178 pp., black and white illustrations) Price not available at listing time. Needs to be reviewed.

Grade 7 - These Are Our Freedoms (381 pp includes glossary), copyright 1959. Nihil Obstat: James J. Kortendick, M.A., S.T.B, Censor Dept., Imprimatur + Patrick A. O'Boyle, D.D., Archbishop of Washington, Nov.2, 1958. Sister M. Perpetua, R.S.M., Mary Synon, L.L.D. and Katherine Rankin. Color paperback cover, black and white text and illustrations. ($15.00)


Featuring patriotic stories and poems, many of them centering on the era of the American Revolution through the Civil War, this book includes selections from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mary O'Hara, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Ogden Nash, Abraham Lincoln, T.S. Eliot, Bishop John Lancaster Spaulding and a host of others.


Each story is followed by a short exercise, like "Understanding the Mood of a Story, " "Arranging Events in Order," "Recalling Facts," "Finding Word Meanings," "Relating Ideas," ""Fact or Opinion?" "Classifying Ideas," "Recalling Characters and Dialogue," "Quotations," (not a reference to punctuation; the student credits the specific speaker of a famous quote, with the answer provided in the previous reading selection), "Dividing Words Into Syllables," "Writing a Character Sketch," "Can You Find the Main Idea?" and other helps. These exercises gradually accelerate the student in necessary language art skills like character analysis, vocabulary, syllabication, identifying rhetoric, etc.


Children are introduced to "living" stories about people - John Henry and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few. Young ladies will find the story of Jasmine and General Jackson (including nuns from the Ursuline order) delightful. So, too, will they discover Our Lady's Lantern (about the Sisters of Notre Dame founding Catholic schools in pioneer Oregon), while boys will like the "tall tale" of Pecos Bill.


Like other books in the Faith and Freedom series, their use is practically self-explanatory. (There are no teacher or student suggestions in reference to the poems, leaving the reader free to enjoy or memorize them.)


Grade 7 - Book of Fortitude. (180 pages) Older spiral-bound edition now being phased out in preparation for its new look - on sale through Seton. Includes stories about Our Lord, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Elibath of Hungary, St. Joan of Arc, Red Hugh of Donegal, and Lewis and Clark. ($10.00 for spiral bound version - new glossy paperback version to be released in the spring of 2000).


Grade 8 - These Are Our Horizons (379 pp. includes Glossary) copyright 1960. Nihil Obstat: James J. Kortendick, M.A., S.T.B, Censor Dept., Imprimatur + Patrick A. O'Boyle, D.D., Archbishop of Washington, Nov.2, 1959. Sister M. Perpetua, R.S.M., Mary Synon, L.L.D. and Katherine Rankin. Color paperback cover featuring artwork of The Assumption of the Virgin Mary; black and white text and illustrations.

Selections include works by Robert Frost, Helen Keller, Stephen Vincent Benet, Joyce Kilmer, and Francis Thompson. ($15.00)

Currently under review


Grade 8 - A Book of Friendliness (496 pages, including Books for Further Reading, Biographical Index of Authors and usual Index) copyright 1949. Nihil Obstat: Rev. James. J. Kortendick, M.A., S.T.B., Censor Duputatus; Imprimatur: + John M. McNamara, D.D., Administrator, Archdiocese Baltimorensis-Washingtonensis, June 1, 1947. by Sister Mary Charlotte, R.S.M., M.A., Sister Mary Brendan, R.S.M., M.ED. and Mary Synon, LL.D. Color softcover featuring artwork of The Nativity; black and white text and illustrations. ($16.00)


 An absolutely beautiful book of virtuous themes worth every penny and more, A Book of Friendliness emphasizes love of the faith, charity, hearth, home and country. The following is a small list of what it includes: excerpts from the Holy Scriptures (like the Magnificat prayer and the Beatitudes); Thomas a Kempis' "Of Works Done Out of Charity" (a timeless reminder needed especially today); heart-rending poems dedicated to the bravery of soldiers and those who died in various wars; historical essays from personal perspectives; and classics like Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, A Christmas Carol,The Bugle Song, The Highwayman, and much more. Readers will find surprising jewels spanning from the poem, Christ in Woolworth's (remember the five and ten stores?) to the story of a dramatic change of heart in The Third Lamb, to the legend of King Arthur found in The Vision of Sir Launfal.


Most, but not all, of the stories are followed by either "Helps for Discussion" or "Things to Do" (for example, following The Lady of Shalot, one suggestion is to draw or paint an illustration for one stanza). No answer key is provided but neither is one absolutely necessary.


This is the first book in the series to include "Books for Further Reading" as well as a "Biographic Index" with a brief sketch of each author. The reading list is correlated to each of the book's units (or chapters) - a great help when any story inspires the reader to research the subject further. Among the materials listed are classics, some which may be found at the library, or perhaps - when out of print - through book finders. Just before the index, there is also a list of audio-visual aids which, unfortunately, will probably not be found anywhere today. However, they are not really necessary in the homeschool and their absence in no ways detracts from the interest and beauty of A Book of Friendliness.


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