294 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
them they gathered about us, their fingers outstretched in their eagerness to touch the letters. Those who secured cards were unable to touch them properly because of the other children, who crowded about trying to reach the cards in our laps. I remember with what an impulsive movement the possessors of the cards held them on high like banners, and began to march, followed by all the other children who clapped their hands and cried out joyously. The procession passed before us, and all, big and little, laughed merrily, while the mothers, attracted by the noise, leaned from the windows to watch the sight.
The average time that elapses between the first trial of the preparatory exercises and the first written word is, for children of four years, from a month to a month and a half. With children of iive years, the period is much shorter, being about a month. But one of our pupils learned to use in writing all the letters of the alphabet in twenty days. Children of four years, after they have been in school for two months and a half, can write any word from dictation, and can pass to writing with ink in a note-book. Our little ones are generally experts after three months' time, and those who have written for six months may be compared to the children in the third elementary. Indeed, writing is one of the easiest and most delightful of all the conquests made by the child.
If adults learned as easily as children under six years of age, it would be an easy matter to do away with illiteracy. We would probably find two grave hinderances to the attainment of such a brilliant success: the torpor of the muscular sense, and those permanent defects of spoken language, which would be sure to translate themselves into the written language. I have not made experiments along this line, but I believe that one school year would be suffi-