TEACHING HEADING AND WRITING 267
that the word may be understood. And all this is a purely mental task, while in writing, the child, under dictation, materially translates sounds into signs, and moves, a thing which is always easy and pleasant for him. Writing develops in the little child with facility and spontaneity, analogous to the development of spoken language — which is a motor translation of audible sounds. Reading, on the contrary, makes part of an abstract intellectual culture, which is the interpretation of ideas from graphic symbols, and is only acquired later on.
My first experiments with normal children were begun in the first half of the month of November, 1907.
In the two " Children's Houses " in San Lorenzo, I had, from the date of their respective inaugurations (January 6 in one and March 7 in the other), used only the games of practical life, and of the education of the senses. I had not presented exercises for writing, because, like everybody else, I held the prejudice that it was necessary to begin as late as possible the teaching of reading and writing, and certainly to avoid it before the age of six.
But the children seemed to demand some conclusion of the exercises, which had already developed them intellectually in a most surprising way. They knew how to dress and undress, and to bathe, themselves; they knew how to sweep the floors, dust the furniture, put the room in order, to open and close boxes, to manage the keys in the various locks; they could replace the objects in the cupboards in perfect order, could care for the plants; they knew how to observe things, and how to see objects with their hands. A number of them came to us and frankly demanded to be taught to read and write. Even in the face of our refusal several children came to school and