By Barbara Sokolov
Everyone who comes in contact with Waldorf education is sure to notice how beautiful it is, from the enchanting natural toys and seasonal themes in the kindergarten rooms, to the incredible chalkboard drawings in each classroom. Visitors and prospective parents enjoy the amazing array of children’s artistic creations — the paintings and drawings, knitted dolls and animals, woven baskets, beeswax figures, and wood carvings, just to name a few. The music that the children play, their singing, and the wonderful plays each class performs are truly impressive. They admire the main lesson books written and illustrated by the students, books that artistically reflect the rich curriculum of a Waldorf school. And of course they can’t help but notice the happy faces of the children in a Waldorf school.
But invariably the question arises of how and when children are taught to read in a Waldorf School. The growing anxiety in our society over declining reading skills is so pervasive that suddenly, all the wonders and beauty of a Waldorf education pale in the shadow of the reading issue. “But Waldorf schools take a laid back approach to reading,” people say. “Waldorf students are not taught to read in first grade like public school students.”