298 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
Written language does not need speech; its full power i&
realized only when it is completely isolated from spoken language.
In these last days (in 1909) whilst the present book was for the
first time in the press, we reached, in the Children's Houses, full
enjoyment of reading by means of the following game.
I wrote on some sheets of paper long sentences describing
actions which the children would have to carry out, for example:
"Close the window shutters and go and open the entrance door;
then wait a moment and put things back as they were at first."
" Ask eight of your companions, politely to leave their places and
stand in a line, in pairs, in the middle of the room; then make
them march backwards and forwards on the points of their toes,
very quietly, without making any noise." " Ask three of your
oldest companions who sing very well to be kind enough to
come to the middle of the room; group them in a row, and
sing along with them any beautiful tune which you like." And
The children, directly I had finished writing, almost snatched
the cards from my hand to read them, placing them to dry on their
little tables. They read them by themselves, with the most intense
attention, in the deepest silence. I asked them, " Do you under-
stand? " " Yes, yes." " Then go and do it." With what admira-
tion did I watch the children as they each chose an action and
carried it out at once. Great activity, movement of a new kind
came to life in the room. Some closed and then opened the
shutters, some set their companions running, some made them
sing, some went to write, some took objects from the sideboard.
Surprise and curiosity provoked general silence, and the scene was
filled with the most intense commotion. It seemed as if magic
strength had gone out from me stimulating activity which had been
unknown before: that magic was written language, the greatest
triumph of civilization.
How well the children understood the importance of it! When
I left, they crowded round me with manifestations of gratitude and
affection, saying: " Thank you, thank you for the lesson."