Visiting my local library the other day, I was delighted to see the most thoughtful change to the “Easy Reader” area of the children’s section. Multnomah County librarians have done something heroic - they sorted the books by complexity despite whatever cryptic number/level/color/symbolic system the publisher had assigned them. They have offered “Welcome to Reading” in this way for a while in the form of take home kits, but it’s a new thing to actually find on the shelves at the library.
Although they can be a fun supplement, “early reader books” are not an essential part of the Montessori reading curriculum. The Children’s House boasts so many incredible, fun, rich, varied, dynamic, interesting ways to practice reading – even for the earliest, most mechanical reading. Consider the very first reading presentation – the Phonetic Object Box. The teacher sits with the child as they explore a set of familiar objects. Not unlike the Sound Game at the spoken level, these objects can include charming miniatures or simply be items gathered from the environment. The child savors the connection with the guide, watching the words appear as the teacher writes them out, and then the fun surprising novelty of the game of matching the labels to the objects. The child can repeat the activity with these slips, or move on to the printed slips in the box. Before the activity is put away, the teacher can drop a hint that new things will appear in the box from time to time. The fun continues as the child continues to read something new everyday, which might include any or all of the following:
o Personalized handwritten slips/notes that the adults surprise the child with, by dropping them off at their workspace (“Sam’s red socks!” , “Red Rods”)
o Games (in a group, from your chair, one on one) where children are written slips within a category that correspond to their reading level (“Things on the Practical Life shelves”, “Parts of the body”, “Things to do!”)
o Three Part Reading Classification Cards, particularly those with some simpler vocabulary.
o Signs on the walls that describe what’s in a picture, or with words from a familiar poem or song, etc.
With this fun, varied practice, and with the introduction of Phonograms, Puzzle Words, and the full breadth and depth of Reading Classification, the child’s reading will swiftly move beyond single simple phonetic words. Books for emergent readers offer just one more way to explore and practice! These books can be included with regular books that are read (check out great resources for books here), or they can be in a special basket that readers can be oriented to. If the children ask about the numbers/levels/colors/whatnot, it’s easy to just shrug it off with “Oh, that’s just how they set that book up. We can just enjoy the story!”. Happy reading!
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Corinne Stastny is the Course Assistant for MNW's Portland's Primary teacher training courses. She feels extremely lucky to call Montessori her profession and loves sharing Montessori with her 8 year-old daughter, Stella.