Does the idea of 4-year-olds learning how to read seem odd? How about 3-year-olds learning how to write?

At Montessori schools, it's the norm.

That's what Indianapolis parent Andrell Moore found out a few years ago. When Moore arrived at Maria Montessori International Academy to pick up his daughter at the end of a school day, the teachers gave him an unexpected surprise: a recording of the young girl reading an entire book for the first time.

He was taken aback. “The thing about it was that was really surprising that it was before her 4th birthday,” Moore recalled. “It was priceless. Normally, you would have to be attending super expensive academies to receive that type of education. What they were able to provide my daughter was really priceless.”

Moore’s child wasn’t the only student at MMIA who learned to read at the ages of 3 and 4. Since 2001, nearly 100 percent of the younger students attending MMIA schools have learned to read by the age of 5.

While Moore and other MMIA parents are among those who are adamant believers in the early learning opportunities that a Montessori curriculum provides, those who are not familiar with the Montessori method question whether teaching a child to read before kindergarten may be pushing them too hard.

While there are many questions surrounding the Montessori method, learning to read at the ages of 3 and 4 are among the areas that are frequently questioned.

Some parents may question, “What’s the rush?”

While some may consider reading as a complicated learning process that children must endure, Dr. Maria Montessori, a psychologist by training, found that young children find it a joy to explore letters and how to form them into words. After numerous years of studying child behavior, Dr. Montessori, who founded the Montessori method, discovered that the ideal time for children to learn to read is between the ages of 3½ and 5½.

More importantly, she discovered that children have an innate and, as she described it, “powerful” interest in both reading and writing during those years. She called this phase of learning and discovery as “the sensitive period of development.” 

In fact, Dr. Montessori said, by waiting until children are 6, the process of learning to read is more difficult because they must do so through memorization.

Learning to write comes even earlier

If you’re having trouble understanding how 3- and 4-year-olds can learn to read, the idea of 2-year-olds learning to write may be even more challenging.

However, in the Montessori classroom, toddlers are often exploring how to write, which is a developmental skill that comes as naturally as toddlers learning to speak. Again, Dr. Montessori, after years of observing children, discovered that young children expressed an interest in written letters, which led to the development of sandpaper letters — a special Montessori educational tool used in the classroom.

With these letters, students are able to trace the letters to understand how to write. After mastering how to write, children find that reading comes quite naturally at the ages of 3½ and 4.

Learn to read at the age of 3 or 4? It’s completely natural! Contact us at Maria Montessori International Academy to schedule a tour. During your visit, there’s a great chance you will see plenty of 3- and 4-year-olds taking the time to enjoy writing and reading.