52 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
school children, when for many of them home means a straw pallet thrown down in the corner of some dark hovel. We wish to establish circulating libraries that the poor may read at home. We plan to send among these people books which shall form their domestic literature — books through whose influence they shall come to higher standards of living. We hope through the printed page to educate these poor people in matters of hygiene, of morality, of culture, and in this we show ourselves profoundly ignorant of their most crying needs. For many of them have no light by which to read!
There lies before the social crusader of the present day a problem more profound than that of the intellectual elevation of the poor; the problem, indeed, of life.
In speaking of the children born in these places, even the conventional expressions must be changed, for they do not " first see the light of day "; they come into a world of gloom. They grow among the poisonous shadows which envelope over-crowded humanity. These children cannot be other than filthy in body, since the water supply in an apartment originally intended to be occupied by three or four persons, when distributed among twenty or thirty is scarcely enough for drinking purposes!
We Italians have elevated our word " casa " to the almost sacred significance of the English word " home," the enclosed temple of domestic affection, accessible only to dear ones.
Far removed from this conception is the condition of the many who have no " casa," but only ghastly walls within which the most intimate acts of life are exposed upon the pillory. Here, there can be no privacy, no modesty, no gentleness; here, there is often not even light, nor air, nor water! It seems a cruel mockery to introduce