Age 3 ½ to 5 ½ = The Optimal Time to Learn Handwriting and Reading
For the preschool child, building his vocabulary and learning to handwrite and to read are arguably the most important academic skills to acquire. The broader his vocabulary, the easier reading comprehension will be for the child down the road – and 3-6 year olds learn even difficult scientific terms with ease. Thus, developing our student’s vocabulary is an important part of our primary classrooms.
Today in America, most educators believe that reading and handwriting are best taught to six or seven year olds, in Kindergarten and first grade – and most preschools therefore work on “reading readiness”, not actual reading and writing. In contrast, our students actually learn to read and write – a typical LePort Kindergarten student can read real books (not just sound out phonetic 3-letter-words), and pen full sentences in cursive handwriting (not just form a few print capital letters or trace his name.)
We teach reading and writing early – because, as Dr. Montessori has shown, 3 ½ to 5 ½ years are the optimal ages to learn these skills. Children at that age are interested in the sensations of language – its sounds, the movement the hand makes when writing a letter, the grip of the hand on the pencil – and they delight in the repetition necessary to perfect these skills. By carefully structuring the language program for our preschool students around their natural interests and abilities, we enable our students to joyfully learn to read and write long before they enter elementary school – and spare them the tedious effort and frustration that too many kids experience when learning these critical skills in a traditional elementary school setting.
The child, at the beginning of [this] period, is not interested in writing sentences or even words . . . paradoxically as it may seem, he is not interested in writing at all. What interests him are the purely sensorial aspects of the matter—the shape of the sandpaper letters . . . the fact—again a purely sensorial one—that each letter has a corresponding sound. He is at a stage where the world of touch means enormously more to him than to us.”