THE METHOD AND THE MATERIAL 283
posed is not so easy. Indeed, he generally succeeds in reading it only after a certain effort. In this case I help the child, urging him to read, and reading the word with him once or twice, always pronouncing very distinctly, mama, mama. But once he has understood the mechanism of the game, the child goes forward by himself, and becomes intensely interested. We may pronounce any word, taking care only that the child understands separately the letters of which it is composed. He composes the new word, placing, one after the other, the signs corresponding to the sounds.
It is most interesting indeed to watch the child at this work. Intensely attentive, he sits watching the box, moving his lips almost imperceptibly, and taking one by one the necessary letters, rarely committing an error in spelling. The movement of the lips reveals the fact that he repeats to himself an infinite number of times the words whose sounds he is translating into signs. Although the child is able to compose any word which is clearly pronounced, we generally dictate to him only those words which are well-known, since we wish his composition to result in an idea. When these familiar words are used, he spontaneously rereads many times the word he has composed, repeating its sounds in a thoughtful, contemplative way.
The importance of these exercises is very complex. The child analyses, perfects, fixes his own spoken language,— placing an object in correspondence to every sound which he utters. The composition of the word furnishes him with substantial proof of the necessity for clear and forceful enunciation.
The exercise, thus followed, associates the sound which is heard with the graphic sign which represents it, and