The New England Primer became the first children’s textbook to be produced in the American colonies in 1690, and immediately established itself as a key educational staple. It introduced the youthful scholar to both the alphabet and religious doctrine via a series of rhyming couplets that lingered on the themes of sin and punishment. It was also heavy on moral lessons, incorporating John Cotton’s Milk of Babes, the Lord’s Prayer and the salutatory tale of a youth whose devotion to pleasure earns him a premature place in hell.
The Westminster Catechism was produced in 1647 by the Westminster Assembly in both large and short form for the education of the laity. Aimed at Presbyterian and other Reformed churches, it drew strongly upon Calvinist doctrine. Like most of its kind, it covered the ten commandments, the sacraments and prayer, and placed a good deal of emphasis on the fallen condition of humanity. Read the Shorter Catechism here.