We had taken a great step; we had leapt from the mechanism
to the spirit of reading.
Today, the following, which is the favourite among the games,
is played in this way. First, absolute silence is established; then
there is presented a box containing folded labels, on which is
written a long sentence describing an action.
All the children who can read come up and draw a label by
chance; they read it mentally once or oftener, till they are sure
that they have understood it right, then they give the open label
back to the teacher, and set about what has to be done. Since
many of the actions require the assistance of companions who
cannot read, and many lead to the using and moving about of
objects, a general movement develops, which grows in a wonder-
fully orderly manner, whilst the deep silence is broken only by the
subdued scuffle of little feet running lightly and by voices singing
songs—an unexpected revelation of spontaneous perfect discipline.
Experience has shown us that composition must precede logical
reading, as writing precedes the reading of words; and that the
reading which conveys meaning must be mental and not vocal.
Indeed, reading aloud implies the employment of the two
mechanisms of language, the articular and the graphic, which
makes the work more complicated. Who does not know that
an adult who has to read a passage in public prepares himself for
it by getting the meaning of it beforehand by mental reading, and
that reading aloud is one of the most difficult intellectual actions?*
Children, then, who are beginning to read in order that they may
interpret thought, ought to read mentally. Written language,
when it reaches logical thought, ought to be kept apart from
articulate language. It really represents language which transmits
thought from a distance, whilst the senses and the muscular
mechanism are silent. It is spiritualized language which brings-
into communication all mankind.
Education having reached such a level in the Children's
Houses, it follows as a consequence that the whole scheme of"
work in the elementary schools would have to be changed.