Education,  Montessori theory,  Parenting

The Importance of Reading with Children

The Importance Of The First 1,000 Days of Your Child’s Life

“What is imagination? Imagination is the true form of the intelligence of man. It is always
there in this form. If man did not have imagination, they would have the same intelligence
animals have, only in a larger amount…man can imagine things that are not there and then
create these things.” Maria Montessori spoke of this in relation to how we listen to stories
and construct our intelligence.

In a recent study released by UNICEF, Muriel Mafico, UNICEF South Africa, Deputy
Representative reminded us that: “The first 1,000 days of life are when a child’s brain
develops the fastest. Listening to stories and playing is an essential part of a child’s
development to get the best start in life”. Maria Montessori observed the same thing and
noted that children begin in an auditory / sensory stage. It is the stage where the child
absorbs all the components of the language that surrounds her in an unconscious,
grammatical way. This gives the child a natural opportunity to build their intelligence and
social connection.

Even before birth there is evidence that reading to the baby in utero can promote brain
activity and can promote early literacy skills and language development. Development of
literary skills continues after birth even if the child is not yet verbal on their own.

The UNICEF study showed that more than 40% of households surveyed do not have access
to books at home. Of the 58% that do have access to books, only 32% of households read
the books to their children. Now, we must understand that oral literature is just as powerful
as the written word but the powerful partnership that written and oral literature has, is
what sets our children up for the best start.

In this piece you will find how we read in the Hatfield Montessori classroom, what Maria
Montessori wrote about how listening to stories builds the intelligence, and what benefits
reading with your child has for you both.

How We Read Stories In The Class

There are many different ways we read in the classroom and all of them are centred around
enjoyment and play. We read for comprehension. This is done by reading a story and then
asking your child questions as you go along. We read to enjoy silence with one another. This
is done by just pointing at images together and slowly flipping the pages. We look through
books and allow our children to tell us the story (based on their interpretation of the
images). We play reading games. This includes asking the child to listen out for a specific
word, and whenever they hear it they have to do a specific action.

All of the above-mentioned ideas are there to create a foundation that is rooted in fun,
connection and a love for literature. The books do not have to be expensive books bought
from high-end book stores, they could be the newspaper or the takeaway menu or even an
atlas at home. Going to second-hand bookstores or book tables at fêtes and flea markets is often a valuable source of enjoyable books. We have children in the classroom who will sit
for a long time flipping through insect books, recipe books or international flag books. Any
book will almost always have some relevance to their daily life and that is what your child is
searching for.

What Montessori Said About Listening to Stories

We read in this way in the classroom based on Maria Montessori’s observations on the
child. Through her findings, Maria Montessori connected the construction of intelligence
with the imagination. The imagination is stimulated by stories.

She wrote that we construct our intelligence in two ways: The first is through activity.
Children are active participants in the construction of intelligence from their experience.
The second way is by imagination. “It is imagination that enables us to acquire our culture,
to retain the images that we gather in our minds and to construct with these images.”
“Children have not only the power of understanding a story but they also have a great
power of constructing complex ideas. We see this in the period between three and six years
old. Children are endowed with a power that enables them to reconstruct things which are
very complex, and they do so with a great deal of pleasure.”

Between 3 and 4 years old, your child will ask you to repeat the same story over and over
again. This is a sign of their inner work. They learn through repetition and receive a great
deal of pleasure from constructing these imaginations in their minds. From the age of 5 they
are stimulated by more complex imaginative stories so that they can express their
reconstruction work.

By understanding the inner workings of a child’s mind we can better equip ourselves to
support their development!

Value for Parents

Our weeks are long and busy, and everyone needs time to unwind – even our children. In
light of what we have been discussing, think about having a daily story time with your child.
This will give you both time to decompress over a book. You could use the silent reading
technique if the day has been too hard, or just let your child ‘read’ the book to you. It can be
a special time of connection to discover your child’s interests and you could rediscover
some of your own too!

Hatfield Montessori is lucky enough to have a rich collection of books both for children and
adults. We have a classroom library and a parents’ library – both of which you as a parent
are more than welcome to borrow from. The children (or parents) choose their own books
from the classroom library and take these home to read. The Parents’ Library contains
books on topics related to parenting and the Montessori approach.

Hatfield Montessori has been buying books from Qualibooks for some years now. And they
are now launching their Qualibooks eStore. The new online store offers a vast selection of
quality books at an unbeatable price, with discounts ranging from 30-50% off the retail

These special offers expire 30th June 2023

If you buy from the on-line store using the Coupon code HAT20, the school will qualify for a

20% kickback in books.

Reminder : You  must enter the unique Code HAT20 when checking out.
Encouraging your child to read can only be successful if they see you reading too!

Food For Thought

What were your bedtime routines when you were a child?
Did your caregivers read to you?
How can you reshuffle a bit of your time for this essential bit of connection with your child?
How often do you read now?
Could you create a book club with parents in your area, so you don’t have to buy

Written by Ellen-Anne Williams (Lead Guide)

Montessori, M (2012) The 1946 London Lectures Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
[The Construction of Imagination]
Montessori, M (2016) The Advanced Montessori Method Volume I Montessori-Pierson
Publishing Company [Chapter 9: Imagination]


  • Mienkie Pinchen

    This is written so beautifully Anki!

    Each line filled with such clarity.
    Thank you for sharing this. I love the practical suggestions that can be implemented, nestled in understanding and purpose for why we read to our children.

    May intellect, creativity and joy for reading always stay with our children.

    Mienkie Pinchen xxx

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