The Hundred Languages of Children

This poem by the founder of the Reggio-Emilia approach beautifully conveys the important roles imagination and discovery play in early childhood learning. Much of Reggio-Emilia philosophy is based on protecting children from becoming subjected too early to institutionalized doctrines which often make learning a chore rather than an extension of natural curiosity.

The child is made of one hundred.

The child has

a hundred languages

a hundred hands

a hundred thoughts

a hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.

 

A hundred. Always a hundred

ways of listening

of marveling, of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds

to discover

a hundred worlds

to invent

a hundred worlds

to dream.

 

The child has

a hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

but they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture

separate the head from the body.

They tell the child:

to think without hands

to do without head

to listen and not to speak

to understand without joy

to love and to marvel

only at Easter and at Christmas.

 

They tell the child:

to discover the world already there

and of the hundred

they steal ninety-nine.

 

They tell the child:

that work and play

reality and fantasy

science and imagination

sky and earth

reason and dream

are things

that do not belong together.

 

And thus they tell the child

that the hundred is not there.

The child says:

No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi, Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

In April of this year, I had the privilege of observing little children express themselves in these hundred languages, with the help of their teachers, the pedagogistas and the atelieristas in Reggio Emilia itself. You may want to visit the Reggio exhibitions when they pass by your city/country to get a peek into the work they do.

 

2 Comments

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  2. Questa e’ la prima volta che leggo questo meraviglioso poema!
    Da Mamma, artista ed istruttrice d’arte sono profondamente toccata ed onorata di averlo letto, incamerato nel mio cuore, nella mia anima e sono pronta a diffonderlo qua a NYC (attraverso le mie lezioni di pittura ed’ arte in Italiano) metropoli dove di contro l’educazione nelle scuole elementari pubbliche comincia senza lo studio della grammatica di base e dove per via della società e dello stile di vita viene inculcata la competizione e la corsa al successo!

    English Translation:

    That ‘s the first time I read this wonderful poem!
    From Mom, artist and art instructor, I am deeply touched and honored to have read it, forfeited in my heart, in my soul and I’m ready to spread it here in NYC (through my painting lessons and ‘art in Italian) of the metropolis where against education in public elementary schools begins without the study of basic grammar and where because of society and the lifestyle is inculcated competition and the rat race!

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