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Hello, Little-New Yorkers! This month we are celebrating the start of the school year by reading stories all about school, friendship, and being yourself.
How do you practice your reading? You probably read from your favorite books, or maybe play games on a tablet or computer. In the American colonies during the 1700s, children often learned to read by using hornbooks: the letters of the alphabet and perhaps a Bible verse or prayer mounted onto a wooden frame and covered by a thin layer of animal horn. Here is artist S. D. Schindler’s illustration of a hornbook from Hornbooks and Inkwells by Verla Kay:
This book tells the story of two brothers, Peter and John Paul, going to school in a one-room schoolhouse in 1700s Pennsylvania. Today we are going to make our very own hornbook, just like the ones Peter, John Paul, and their classmates used long ago! And don’t forget to join us live at 3:30 pm every Tuesday via Zoom and Friday in-person for our Little New-Yorkers Hello Song, silly games and dances, a craft, and, of course, our read aloud.
Here is an early-1800s inkwell from our collection at the New-York Historical Society. The students in the story used quills and ink to write their lessons.
- Hornbook Template
- Something to color with: markers, crayons, pencils, pastels, or a cool combo!
* A note on supplies: If you don’t have exactly the supplies listed, improvise! These projects are designed to be versatile, so feel free to use whatever materials and tools you have at home. And if your final product looks different than what you see here, that’s wonderful!
STEP 1: Create Your Frame
The first thing you are going to do is make the frame of your hornbook. Start by cutting out the outline of the hornbook on the second page of your template.
Place the cut-out paper on your cardboard and trace around it with a pencil.
Use your scissors to cut out the shape from the cardboard.
STEP 2: What Will You Learn?
The hornbooks used in schoolhouses like Peter and John Paul’s usually had the letters of the alphabet and a verse or prayer from the Bible. What else would you like to include on your hornbook? You could write out the rest of the alphabet under the big A B C? Or you could write about a favorite thing you have learned at school, or even draw a picture! I chose to write a sentence about school from today’s book.
STEP 3: Coloring
Add some color and decoration.
STEP 4: Cutting
Get those scissors again and cut out your sheet.
STEP 5: Gluing
Next, use your glue to stick your sheet to your cardboard frame.
STEP 6: Decorate
Use your coloring materials to decorate your hornbook! You can make patterns, designs, and pictures, or even write more words.
STEP 7: Done!
You did it! In colonial times, students would memorize their hornbooks through repetition. Can you memorize your hornbook?
Thanks for following along! We hope to see you, and your creations, at Little New-Yorkers soon! We’d love to see your artwork - join the conversation and tag us on social media @nyhistory.
Written by Meagan Raker