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WRITTEN LANGUAGE                       253

that the meaning of the word may be understood. All that con-
sists of purely mental work, whilst in writing, as is shown below,,
the child translates sounds into signs in a material way; and he
moves, which to him is easy and pleasant. Writing is developed
in the small child easily and spontaneously, in the same way as-
speech, which is also a motor translation of sounds which are heard.
On the other hand, reading forms part of abstract intellectual
culture which is the interpretation of ideas represented by graphic
symbols, and is acquired only much later.


My first experiments with normal children began in the first
half of November, 1907.

In the two Children's Houses in San Lorenzo, from the 6th of
January in one case, arid from the 7th of March in the other, dating
from their respective inaugurations, until the end of July, I had
applied only exercises in practical life, and in the education of the-
senses. After July a month of holidays had interrupted the lessons.
I was influenced by the prejudice that the teaching of reading and
writing should be delayed as long as possible, certainly till the age-
of six years. But during the months which had elapsed, the^
children seemed to be asking themselves for some conclusion to
the exercises which had already developed them intellectually to
a surprising degree. They could dress and undress themselves and
wash themselves; they could sweep the floors, dust the furniture,,
set the rooms in order, open and close boxes, turn keys in locks,
replace objects in good order in the cupboards, water the flowers;
they were able to observe objects by touching them; some of them
came and asked us frankly to teach them to read and write. And,
after we had refused, some children caine to school able to draw
o*s on the blackboard, and displayed their doings to us like a
challenge. Afterwards a large number of mothers cajne to ask us
as a favour to teach their children to write. " Because," they saidr
" here they wake up and learn so many things so easily that if