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How children learn to read in a Waldorf-Steiner School

The foundation for reading begin in kindergarten with a focus on the spoken word. Nature stories, folktales and fairy tales surround children with beautiful words and imagery.

The language is not simplified for these young children and their teachers are careful to use clear speech and to enunciate well as this immersion in literature is the basis of literacy.

The same story is often repeated for a whole week or even sometimes longer. This gives our children the opportunity to relax into the story and often to even learn in by heart. Current brain research confirms that repetition aids a child’s brain development. The connections of billions of neural pathways in the brain are strengthened through repeated experiences.

In Class One when children are six, the alphabet is introduced through imaginative story. Each letter of the alphabet is presented as a picture, representing an element from a story the children are told. For example, they might hear the story of a magnificent mountains before drawing a picture with the letter “M” forming the Mountains on either side of the “V” for Valley.

In this way, the child develops a living relationship with each letter rather than going straight to the abstraction of the alphabet letters themselves.

After learning all the letters the children create their own main lesson books within which they practise their letters and their first sentences.

The teacher will often write a poem on the board that the children already ‘know’ by heart. Through joyful recognition of familiar sounds and words the children begin to ‘read’ the poem and then write it in their books.

Much research has shown the negative impacts of pushing “academics”, such as reading, at too early an age. Forcing children to read too early often hurts their self-confidence and general passion for books. Children who read when they are ready often develop a passion for stories and love of reading that lasts for life.

We are delighted to be starting a new Class One in January 2020. If you would like to book a tour, please email

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