If you started your journey of learning about Montessori education by reading the first book you found by Maria Montessori, you might have found it rough going. Some books in our field, especially some by Montessori herself, can be a little hard to get into if you don’t already understand her basic principles. Though she was a gifted writer and presenter, Dr. Montessori was also an Italian woman who grew up during the Victorian era. For some, her style can take some adjustment to enjoy. Also, many books attributed to her may have been compiled at least in part from transcriptions of her lectures. All these factors can discourage Montessori teachers in training from exploring this essential resource fully. Please don’t let that happen. If you want to use Montessori’s discoveries, you really do need to learn from her directly as much as you can.
Here is my first suggestion. Start with a very user-friendly book by a modern Montessori author, such as How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin, or by roaming around our site, Montessori blogs, and other online resources. Get a basic understanding of the prepared environment, the period of the absorbent mind, and the appropriate role for teachers or mentors in Montessori education.
Next, make your first book by Montessori herself, Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook. This book was actually written for the American public and those starting to use her method in 1912. It will not give you all the insights of later books, but it will give you some very concrete, practical idea of how she implemented her ideas – a great place to start.
Now I’m sure some people are going to be horrified, but this next suggestion is what has worked well with new teachers and teachers in training. Read The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori next but read it backwards, sort of. Start with Chapter 10, Some Thoughts on Language, and read to the end of the book. Then start back with Chapter 1 and read to where you originally started. This book is Montessori’s masterwork and you really must read it. At the same time, even I who have loved it for decades find myself struggling a bit with those first chapters when I reread it (about half a dozen times so far – and I don’t reread books.)
Then enjoy her books, Discovery of the Child and The Secret of Childhood. By then you can certainly read The Montessori Method, though most of the content will be very familiar from her later books you will already have read. Her other books will make much more sense if you start with these classics.
And even if you only get as far as Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook and the last half of The Absorbent Mind, you will still have at least some essential grounding in her approach in her words. Though I can understand why some Montessori training programs do not include reading books by Maria Montessori, this foundation is simply too important for any Montessori teacher or educator to miss.