New Publication on Primers Research

Learning to Read, Learning Religion. Catechism Primers in Europe from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries (2023). Ed. by Britta Juska-Bacher, Matthew Grenby, Tuija Laine & Wendelin Sroka. John Benjamins.


Catechism primers are inconspicuous but telling little books for children combining the teaching of reading skills and religious catechesis. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, they have been produced, disseminated and used in huge numbers in many regions of the world, in particular in Europe. Remarkably, similar texts appeared across the continent, spanning confessional traditions that were in other respects highly divergent. In different places, and across the whole period, different denominations used not only similar pedagogical and religious strategies, but also shared the same formats and iconography.


This volume, edited by scholars from Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom – among them three members of the International Society for Research on Textbooks and Educational Media e.V. –, is the result of a collaborative transnational and interdisciplinary effort including education, language teaching, children’s literature, book history, and religious studies. With contributions on seventeen European countries and regions, it sheds new light on a fascinating but largely neglected part of European cultural heritage, and, by establishing a comprehensive and authoritative summary of the field, offers fresh impetus for further transnational research.

Reading Primers Special Interest Group

of the International Society for Research on Textbooks and Educational Media


The Reading Primers SIG (RP-SIG) is an international network of individuals and organisations with an interest in the history of the reading primer (aapinen, bukvar’, cartilha, elementarz, Fibel, méthode de lecture, silabario ...) and/or other educational media designed for use in beginning reading instruction.


The RP-SIG encourages research and facilitates the exchange of information about developments in the field across disciplinary and national borders. It provides a forum for researchers from various disciplines (including, but not limited to educational research, cultural studies, general and social history, sociology, political science, linguistics and book history), and also for librarians, collectors and other interested parties. Founded in 2009, it organises its activities under the umbrella of its parent organisation, the International Society for Historical and Systematic Research on Textbooks and Educational Media (IGSBi).


In November 2015, the RP-SIG, in collaboration with the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI), Braunschweig, and the Research Library for the History of Education (BBF) at the German Institute for International Educational Research, Berlin, organised the workshop ‘After the War – A New Beginning?  A Comparative Examination of Reading Primers Published and Used in 1945 in Europe’.


The RP-SIG publishes

  • the Newsletter "Reading Primers International" (RPI) 

(Mai 2023)

(July 2021)

(December 2020)

(April 2018)

(October 2017)

(January 2017)

(May 2016)

(February 2015)

(December 2013)


  • the International Bibliography of Studies on Reading Primers and Basal Readers ( ),
  • of "Lesen lernen - mehrsprachig!" - Fibeln und Lesebücher aus Europa und Amerika. Katalog der Ausstellung in Brixen/Bressanone 2011.



The RP-SIG has two types of membership: individual and corporate. Membership in the RP-SIG is open to individuals and organisations with a) a scholarly interest in reading primers and/or related educational media and b) the will to share their expertise with other members of the network. Membership in the International Society for Historical and Systematic Research on Textbooks and Educational Media is welcome, but not mandatory, and no fees are set for RP-SIG membership.


At present the SIG has members in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom. Corporate members of the RP-SIG include:

  • the Research Group História da Alfabetização, Leitura, Escrita e dos Livros Escolares, Universität Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul (Brasil)
  • the Centro di documentazione e ricerca sulla storia del libro scholastico e della litteratura per l’infanzia (CESCOM), Universität Macerata (Italien)
  • the Research Center MANES, Nationale Fernuniversität, Madrid (Spanien)


Readers who wish to learn more should feel encouraged to write to the SIG’s spokesperson:


Dr. Wendelin Sroka

Grevendieck 21

45134 Essen