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READING                                     291

possessed such beautiful toys and that they could play with them
for such a long time.

But what was my surprise when the children, after having
learnt to understand the written cards, refused to take the toys
and to lose time in playing and in making these friendly gestures
to their little companions; with a kind of insatiable desire they
preferred instead to take out the cards one after another and read
them all. I watched them, and pondered over the enigma of their
minds, which had been hidden from us. As I stood watching them
and meditating over the discovery that children, through some
human instinct, love knowledge better than meaningless play,
I was impressed by the loftiness of the human mind.

We then put away the toys and set ourselves to make hundreds
of written labels—names of children, of objects, of cities, of colours
and of qualities made known through exercises of the senses. We
placed them in more boxes and let the children search as "they
pleased among them. I expected that at least they would hunt
indiscriminately and without any order in one box and in another,
but no, every child finished emptying the box which he had under
his hand, and only after that did he go on to another, truly
insatiable for reading. One day I went out on the terrace and
found that they had carried the tables and chairs there, setting up
school in the open air. Some little ones were playing in the sun,
others were seated in circles round tables covered with letters and
sandpaper cards; at one side, in the shade of a dormer window
was seated the mistress, who had a long, narrow box, full of labels;
the whole length of the box was occupied by little hands searching
within it. A group of children were opening, reading and refolding
the labels, " You would not believe," said the mistress to me,
*" that this has been going on for more than an hour, and still they
are not satisfied," I made the experiment of having balls and dolls
"brought out, but with no result; these futilities had no value
compared with the joy of knowing.

When I saw this surprising result, I was already thinking of
trying to get them to read print, and I proposed to the mistress to