284 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
three and a half. Lively enthusiasm is shown specially in tracing
-the sandpaper letters.
THE PROCESSION OF THE ALPHABET
During the first period of my experiment, when the children
saw for the first time the letters of the alphabet, I asked Directress
Bettini one day to carry to the terrace, where the children were
playing, the various types of cards which she had made. Directly
"the children saw her, they crowded round the teacher and myself
with their fingers held out, and in dozens the small fingers were
•soon touching the letters, whilst the babies were pressing against
each other. Finally some of the taller children succeeded in getting
some of the cards out of our hands, pretending to touch them like
"teachers, but the crowd of little ones hindered this performance.
I remember with what a joyous rush the possessors of the cards,
clasping them in both hands, raised them like standards and began
•to march followed by all the other children, who clapped their hands
and uttered loud cries of joy.
The procession passed in front of us, and all, big and little,
laughed loudly, whilst the mothers, attracted by the noise, watched
-the scene through the windows. This was like a homage paid to
-the material that had worked miracles.
The average period which elapses between the first attempt at
preparatory exercises and the first written word is, for children of
four, a month and a half. For children five years old, the period
is much shorter, about a month; but one of ours learnt to write,
with the letters of the alphabet, in twenty days. Children of four
years, after two and a half months, write some words under
dictation, and are able to pass on to writing with ink in copybooks.
'Generally, after three months, our little ones are proficient, and
those who have been writing for six months may be compared with
children in the third elementary class.
Writing constitutes one of the easiest and most enjoyable
achievements gained by our children.