One of the most common questions that early childhood teachers hear from parents is, "When is my child going to start reading?"
Now, this is a very nuanced question, because reading, just like any other major development, requires various different foundations and is influenced by many different factors.
However, we can look at these general developments that all prepare the child for reading and writing in order to give us a gauge of readiness.
Fine Motor Skill and Finger Grasp: Practical life exercises in tweezing, spooning, and clipping all help the child to develop stronger fine motor skills. Children with mastery of these exercises demonstrate control and strength in their finger muscles, and therefore are ready to begin writing.
Visual Discrimination: To a child, all letters just look like a bunch of shapes and lines. Young children often try to mimic writing by drawing squiggles and shapes. Children with highly developed visual discrimination (through the sensorial area) and spatial awareness can easily identify minute differences between all 26 letters.
Auditory Discrimination: Learning phonics is extremely important for children to associate sounds to each letter. Many letters have very similar sounds and to an untrained ear, can be difficult for children to identify. For example, it is difficult for children to identify the difference between the "a" in pan, "e" in pen, and the "i" in pin. Similar to visual discrimination, a child who has practiced the refinement of the auditory sense (through the sensorial area) is able to better identify the minute differences between the sounds of all 26 letters, and in particular, the vowel sounds.
Development of Order: Written language moves in a left to right, top to bottom direction. The Montessori environment uses this directionality through organizing all materials left to right. Your child learns to place materials on the mat always in the same direction, left to right, and top to bottom. This also serves to help against dyslexia and the unintentional but common flipping of letters.
A child who has a strong foundation in the practical life and sensorial areas will be better prepared for reading and writing. This is not only because the practical life and sensorial areas address the necessary developments listed above, but the child will also have developed greater levels of Independence and Concentration.