McGuffey marks Founder’s Day

By Harold Gwin

One member of the McGuffey family took time to tell the children a story.

YOUNGSTOWN — “The best friend you can have — when you’re alone or with friends — is a book,” said Harry Meshel, former state senator and a member of the McGuffey Historical Society.

A book will teach you something new every day of the year, and we owe that to William Holmes McGuffey, he told a couple hundred children at McGuffey Elementary School Tuesday.

It was Founder’s Day at the school, named for the man who became known as “America’s Schoolmaster” for his McGuffey Eclectic Readers, which served as Americans’ main reading primer for decades after the first version was published in 1836.

McGuffey was raised in Coitsville and went on to fame as an educator and author of the Readers, some of which are still in use today.

The city school district renamed its West Elementary School after McGuffey this year, and the historical society has “adopted” the school.

Shelley Murray, president of the city school board, thanked the society for what it is doing, telling the children that society members will be helping them with their reading.

Some members of the society, who also serve as storytellers, will be visiting McGuffey classrooms periodically throughout the year to read stories to the children from the McGuffey Readers, said Richard Scarsella, society president and a teacher at Chaney High School.

Shirley Eckley, of Hubbard, a retired Youngstown teacher and a great-great-great-niece of William Holmes McGuffey, said the family is very proud to have the school named in his honor.

He began gathering neighborhood children on his porch to tell them stories when he lived in Oxford, Ohio, and used what he learned to create the McGuffey Readers, she said.

Eckley said she is one of the society’s storytellers, a group calling itself, “The Front Porch Storytellers,” and launched into a story about a lonely puffin (a type of sea bird) that involved a lot of audience participation.

The Founder’s Day assembly ended with the children serenading another McGuffey descendant, Helen Owen of New Wilmington, with their version of “Happy Birthday.” Owen celebrated her 98th birthday Saturday.

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