“The things he sees are not just remembered; they become a part of his soul.”Dr. Maria Montessori from The Absorbent Mind, 1949
In Montessori methodology, books shared with young children center around family life, daily routines, or nature. Talking animals are discouraged.
Not because Montessori teachers hate imagination, but the teachers understand our youngest readers’ work focuses on the world they can touch, taste, see, hear, and feel. Abstract thought happens in adolescence or the second plane of development. In the first plane of development, teachers surround toddlers and preschoolers with books in an orderly and realistic world. As the youngsters progress through development, they grow into creative thinkers who turn the known world into an imaginative one.
As a parent and a trained librarian, I struggled with this when my oldest child began Montessori school. Isn’t any reading beneficial to the child? Does that mean I can’t read Guess How Much I Love You? As I watched my oldest child play, I saw them doing the work of the household. Feeding babies, mowing the lawn, doing dishes. It was imagination based in the world they knew and experienced every day. I made peace with making sure there was a balance in the books we read together. There was a place for books about feelings, colors, and getting dressed. AND there was space for silly books about hippos with hiccups or hippos dancing.
Now that they are in high school, I see them create worlds through fan fiction, devour books set in fantasy worlds, and create characters in role-playing games. The reality-based books didn’t hamper creativity. They emboldened it.
When we think about building collections for our youngest readers, remember the world they seek is an ordered and realistic one. Also, remember our children are designed for wonder.
Jessica Smith is a member of the Early Childhood Program and Services Committee and a Children’s Librarian at the Euclid Public Library.
This post addresses ALSC core competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group; II. Reference and User Services; IV. Collection Knowledge and Management