As part of a community research project for the Montessori school my daughter attends, we are researching the debate on reality-based versus fantasy-based learning materials.
I would be most grateful if you could suggest readings or websites that address this topic.
When looking for information I would look for key words such as fairy tales, abstract vs. hands on approach to learning, concrete, etc. Much of Montessori's methods are concrete or reality based for young children. When the concrete lesson is mastered, it then can be taught in an abstract method. Fantasy learning is a part of abstract learning. Dr. Montessori's book, The Montessori Method is an on line book may be helpful.
Montessori talks a great deal about fantasy and fairy tales in
"To Educate the Human Potential"
Educationists in general agree that imagination is important, but the would have it cultivated as separate from intelligence, just as they would separate the latter from the activity of the hand. They are vivisectionists of the human personality. In the school they want children to learn dry facts of reality, while their imagination is cultivated by fairy tales, concerned with a world that is certainly full of marvels, but not the world around them in which they live. Certainly these tales have impressive factors which move the childish mind to pity and horror, for they are full of woe and tragedy, of children who are starved, ill-treated, abandoned, and betrayed. Just as adults find pleasure in tragic drama and literature, these tales of goblins and monsters give pleasure and stir the child’s imagination, but they have no connection with reality.(To Educate the Human Potential)