1896 Ohio Pupils’ Reading Course

Mary Mougey completed the Ohio Pupils' Reading Course for the 1895-1896 school year and received this certificate from the Ohio Teachers' Reading Circle for completing all the publications listed on the certificate.

Mary Mougey completed the Ohio Pupils’ Reading Course for the 1895-1896 school year and received this certificate from the Ohio Teachers’ Reading Circle for completing all the publications listed on the certificate.

If you graduated from a public high school you likely were required to read certain works of literature or books often referred to as classics (or opted to read the Cliffs Notes version of these publications). Even back in 1896 there were lists of books, poems, and speeches that students were expected to read and study (and there were no Cliffs Notes back then).The Ohio Teachers’ Reading Circle, commonly known as the O.T.R.C., was started in 1883. Through its board of control, whose members were elected for a term of four years by the State Teachers association, aimed to select for Ohio teachers, and for each grade of pupils in the public schools, a course of reading for each year consisting of three or four volumes representing the best that in the judgment of the board of control was available, everything considered– subject matter, price and adaptability to existing circumstances.

As an inducement to secure the reading of the selected publications, a certificate was offered to each person who read all the books for any year and reports the fact to the county secretary of the O.T.R.C. When four certificates had been received the reader was entitled to a diploma, and for each additional year of reading, a seal was added to the diploma. Teachers, could earn teaching credits for reading the books recommended for the Teachers’ Reading Course and receive a diploma from the OTRC that stood for professional work done.

The 1896 Ohio Pupils’ Reading Course certificate donated to the Wayne County Historical Society by Billy N. Williams, shows that Mary Mougey completed reading all the publications on the pupils’ list:
Enoch Arden by Alfred Tennyson
The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith
The Traveler – No information found for this title.
The Cotter’s Saturday Night by Robert Burns
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
L’Allegro and il Penserosopoetry by John Milton
Reply to Hayne speech by Daniel Webster
Barefoot Boy a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier
Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Silas Marner by George Eliot

The majority of these old publications can be read online (click the title’s link above) or downloaded to a mobile device for free, thanks to large scale digitization projects like Google Books, Internet Archive Open Library, and Gutenberg.org

Perhaps you can start your own circa 1896 reading circle from the list above. Enjoy!

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