302 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
ing and writing, but he had paid slight attention to it, and, indeed, put little faith in the method. One day, as he sat reading, with the boy playing near, a servant entered, and placed upon the table a large number of letters that had just arrived. The little boy turned his attention to these, and holding up each letter read aloud the address. To his father this seemed a veritable miracle.
As to the average time required for learning to read and write, experience would seem to show that, starting from the moment in which the child writes, the passage from such an inferior stage of the graphic language to the superior state of reading averages a fortnight. Security in reading is, however, arrived at much more slowly than perfection in writing. In the greater majority of cases the child who writes beautifully, still reads rather poorly.
Not all children of the same age are at the same point in this matter of reading and writing. We not only do not force a child, but we do not even invite him, or in any way attempt to coax him to do that which he does not wish to do. So it sometimes happens that certain children, not having spontaneously presented themselves for these lessons, are left in peace, and do not know how to read or write.
If the old-time method, which tyrannized over the will of the child and destroyed his spontaneity, does not believe in making a knowledge of written language obligatory before the age of six, much less do we!
I am not ready to decide, without a wider experience, whether the period when the spoken language is fully developed is, in every case, the proper time for beginning to develop the written language.
In any case, almost all of the normal children treated