The many ways of childhood

I spent the most part of last week observing and working with 3-4 year olds. It has been a delightful experience. Children’s creativity, resourcefulness and enquiry skills – not to mention their unlimited energy – never stop to amaze me.

So when I came across a poem written by Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, on Our Reggio Emilia-Inspired Classroom Transition blog, I knew that it sums up nicely the great potential of very young children. The poem is a powerful description of what early childhood is and allows a glimpse into the way children perceive our world. Moreover, it is a reminder of a society’s collective responsibility towards those children.

No way. The hundred is there.

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.

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