According to Nietz, many of the earliest spellers used in the colonies and early nation were either directly from England or reprints of English books. The earliest American speller was A Grammatical Institute of the English Language written by the prolific textbook writer Noah Webster and published in Hartford in 1783. All of these early American spellers combined aspects of readers and grammars as well, until just before 1820 when exclusively spellers began to include "the pronunciation of the words...by diacritical marks and other symbols." After the 1870's, most spellers consistently employed diacritical marks and were much more explicit about how the words for the spellers were chosen, mainly those most useful or not too commonly misspelled.
The earliest readers printed in the United States were also some of the earliest books ever printed, primers. The first, The New England Primer, was written by Benjamin Harris and printed in Boston shortly after 1686. During the colonial period, much of the content of the readers was religious in nature, and often sectarian, especially in New England where the Puritans controlled much of the government. Once the nation was formed and the separation of church and state began to be accepted, different types of content became prevalent, such as folklore and fairy tales, animal stories, and stories about boys and girls, and the religious content that was maintained was nonsectarian. Nearly all readers until the very late 1800s "emphasized the mastery of effective oral reading or elocution," especially those at more advanced levels.
Like spellers, many of the first grammars used in the colonies and early nation were brought over from England and reprinted due to the lack of copyright protection at the time. In the colonies, grammar used to refer to the study of Latin and Greek, and English grammar was not widely taught until the establishment of the United States. Nietz states that grammars "changed less than the textbooks in most other subject fields," and many grammars contained the same form parts as established in the most widely used grammar textbook in the early period, Lindley Murray's English Grammar. These parts were orthography (the correct formation of letters), etymology, syntax, and prosody.