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Montessori Reading – How Children Learn to Read in Montessori

The Montessori reading method, and Montessori as a whole, focuses on natural, organic learning.

Usually, children who are taught in this way develop the ability to read smoothly and naturally. It almost appears as if they haven’t had to ‘learn’ anything, but simply access their innate abilities.

It shouldn’t be a struggle to learn how to read, it should be engaging and fun. That’s what the Montessori method favors above all.

Montessori phonics

With Montessori, children usually learn how to write before they focus on reading. Once a child can read their own writing, their reading skills then develop fluidly from there.

The way students start their language learning journey is through learning phonics. Understanding phonics is the ability to notice each individual sound in language, and how they join to make up a word.

Learning phonics includes identifying sounds and patterns, counting syllables, and noticing rhyme and alliteration.

Rather than learning the names of each letter, Montessori students learn the sounds first.

There is little focus put on the names of letters until much later, so students can focus entirely on how they hear and say each word.

This method is especially useful for learning the English language, as it doesn’t often follow expected rules.

Learning phonics first also develops strong reading skills.

Rather than focus on the individual letters of a word, students can read using whole-word recognition. This leads to faster and more fluid reading.

Montessori phonics materials

Montessori teachers are trained to educate students on the individual parts of speech using interactive and engaging methods.

They are all provided with specific teaching materials that are designed for learning phonics. The materials are used in different ways to support each stage of learning.

1. Sandpaper letters

The first stage of learning is through the use of phonics cards.

The Montessori phonics cards have each letter formed in sandpaper, which encourages students to trace each letter with their fingers while they read the sound out loud to the teacher.

Using the sense of touch further supports phonics learning, as children learn to replicate the form of each letter that they will eventually write themselves.

2. Object cards

Once students have mastered the basics of phonic recognition, the next stage of learning is to pair each phonics card with an object starting with that letter.

Students are now able to put real meaning to what they have learned so far, which is engaging and fun. Making pairs also feels like a game, adding to the fun of the activity. 

3. Word formation

Pairing of the object and letter cards is further developed in the next stage of learning, where students move from identifying individual letters to forming full words.

The teacher lays out the letters for a word and the student says the word by saying each sound first, then matching it to the correct object card. Students can now read full words and match them to their meanings.

Montessori reading materials

Once students can read full words and match them correctly using the object cards, they can then move onto more developed reading and writing activities.


Montessori provides students with their own journal, which they use to create a story. This masters their writing skills and goes hand in hand with also developing their reading skills.

They’re able to read their own stories that they’ve written and then move on to other Montessori reading materials, such as Bob Books.

The Pink, Blue, and Green series

Montessori uses 3 different series of word cards and other language arts materials, introduced when children are ready and in the following sequence:

Pink series – Comprised of 3-letter (CVC) words.

Blue series – Initial and final letter blends, as well as double consonants.

Green series– Includes phenomes and different VCV rule combinations.

Montessori reading activities

One of the most effective Montessori reading activities is the reading and acting of verbs (action words).

At this stage, students can now read full words, so along with their knowledge of what each verb means they can read a word and act it out to the class with the correct action.

This is a fun and energetic activity that keeps students engaged and motivated to learn.

Supporting your child’s reading

A great way to support and develop your child’s reading skills is to read them books before bedtime.

Once they’re able to read individual words you can encourage them to take part in the reading by sounding one word at a time.

When they’re confident reading in this way they can then try reading full sentences, and eventually a whole book themselves. 

The Montessori reading method is highly effective at developing strong and confident reading skills. Children learn to read naturally and effortlessly, which is fun and engaging in and out of the classroom.

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