The Hundred Languages of Children

As we prepare our heads and our hearts for the beginning of another school year, I offer this beautiful, yet thought-provoking poem, written by Loris Malaguzzi, who developed the philosophy of the preschools, in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

“The Hundred Languages of Children”

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 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.

As you reflect upon the new school year, with new teachers, new children, new families, I invite you to think about your image of the child and what you are creating for the children in your early childhood program. Is yours a place where children come first? Is yours a place where there is great respect for the child as a learner? Where there is sensitivity for the individual nature of learning? Where there is support for learning within your community?

If I can help you and your staff think about all of this, and perhaps create a new plan for your environment, your early childhood program, your community of children, families and teachers, let me know. My team at the John Hancock Child Care Center in Boston was greatly influenced and inspired by the philosophy of Reggio Emilia – and I enjoy sharing how we incorporated it into our program.

My best to all of you this new school year!

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4 Responses to The Hundred Languages of Children

  1. Traci says:

    My second year not being involved in a JHCCC teacher planning day this time of year and something just feels off. I imagine I will always have this feeling. It was such a rejuvenating time of year and reminded me why I was doing what I was doing. It was a time to let go of disagreements, and frustrating moments. We smiled, and laughed while working hard and always asking ourselves at the end of the two days “Where did all the time go?” So many memories; celebrating birthdays, eating way too much junk food, surviving injury (hammer in foot!), and at the end, we got the reward of an amazing finished product!

    • Marcia Hebert says:

      Traci – You remind me of many, many “kick-offs” for the new school year. What a treasure-trove of memories! My favorite, by far, were the children’s books purchased for specific teachers – and the little spiel that went with each. Fun to write and fun to present!
      My best to you this new school year.

  2. Elaine says:

    Hi Marcia,
    Just wanted to say hello! I really enjoyed reading your blog. I am currently a preschool teacher in Nashua…and LOVE IT!! You taught me so much. I remember how kind and gentle you were with me in my beginning years of teaching. I was just a “youngster.” Can you believe I am 42! You introduced me to RIE and will be forever grateful. Now, as I teach preschool, I am becoming interested in the philosophy of Reggio Emilia.
    I hope our paths cross again! You have so much to offer 🙂 Best Regards, Elaine

    • Marcia Hebert says:

      Wow! Elaine! Truly a voice from the past. What fun to re-connect. You will definitely enjoy the Reggio Emilia philosophy – read, study, and absorb —- and then, if you are as inspired as we were, you will make small changes to your classroom environment and observe its impact on the children. Very sensitive approach – I think for you, a fit!! Keep in touch. Share my website with your NH colleagues – and, thank you for the very kind words:) Have a great year.

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