I discovered Susan Fraser and Carol Gestwicki’s Authentic Childhood after trying (unsuccessfully) to absorb the concepts in The Hundred Languages of Children. As an educator new to the Reggio Emilia approach, I had no context yet for the complex ideas presented in Hundred Languages. I like to think of Authentic Childhood as “making files in my brain” for the Reggio Emilia approach. This book gives an overview of RE and lets readers into the classrooms (and minds) of several wonderful educators: Patti Cruikshank-Schott (Chapel Hill’s Carolina Friends School), Margaret Edwards (Durham’s Lakewood Avenue Children’s School), Marty Gravett (Sabot School), Ann Pelo (Hilltop School) and Pam Oken-Wright (St. Catherine’s School). This is one of the best “first” RE texts for new teachers. TOC: Reggio Emilia in the Classroom, The Image of the Child, The Role of the Teacher, Relationships, The Environment as the Third Teacher, Documentation, Negotiating the Curriculum, Aesthetics in the Program, The Investigating Classroom, The Hundred Languages of Children.
Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini and George Foreman edit one most essential texts in the library of Reggio Emilia education choices. For this one, grab a pen, notebook and your best Reggio Emilia friend (for discourse and collaboration, of course!). Take your time with this book, digest every morsel, ponder each paragraph, research its ideas in your own classroom, wrestle with its concepts. Read it once and then again and again and again. If you can, visit the The Wonder of Learning Exhibit. My favorite quote? The Reggio system “is a collection of schools for young children in which each child’s intellectual, emotional, social and moral potentials are carefully cultivated and guided. The principal educational vehicle involves youngsters in long-term engrossing projects, which are carried out in a beautiful, healthy, love-filled setting.” The book’s subtitle is “The Reggio Emilia Approach – Advanced Reflections” and I definitely experienced the “advanced-ness” of it on my first read. A basic familiarity and some classroom experience is, I think, important for deeply comprehending the concepts of this text. TOC: Starting Points, Reggio Emilia Educators Describe Their Program, Reflections on the Interplay of Theory and Practice, The Extension of the RE Approach into American Classrooms, Conclusion.
For a real understanding of the way in which schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy develop and use documentation and diaries (what many in America call portfolios), The Diary of Laura: Perspectives on a Reggio Emilia Diary is, hands down, the best resources. Filled with beautiful images and loving descriptions of one student’s experience in an infant-toddler center, the Diary offers a window into teacher-child interactions as well as the teacher-parent relationship. This text contains the famous watch images which continue to inspire educators around the world to rethink their image of children. The Diary of Laura: Perspectives on a Reggio Emilia Diary is a must-read for any school’s professional development program. Check here for a PDF of the table of contents.
Lella Gandini and Carolyn Pope Edwards’ Bambini: The Italian Approach to Infant/Toddler Care is a wonderful next step in the journey of exploring the Reggio Emilia approach. Gandini and Pope describe the goal of their text: to elucidate the “Italian experience in providing early care and education by focusing on four cities – Milan, Parma, Reggio Emilia and Pistoia – with outstanding city-run systems designed to serve the youngest children and their families.” The text provides a historical, cultural and political context of the RE infant-toddler centers as well as the visions and strategies of these schools (models Americans can research and wrestle with collaboratively in our own contexts). In a typical RE way, the last half of the texts explores practices and reflections. Chapter 10, “Two Reflections about Documentation”, is one of my favorite sources for extending my understanding of the whys and wherefores of documentation practice in Reggio schools. Lilian Katz says about this book, “This book is simply wonderful–every page! Throughout the sixteen chapters–written mostly by the Italians themselves–practices, policies, reflections, and research on how best to serve infants and toddlers and their families are shared.” Definitely worth perusing! For the TOC, check here.
Last, but certainly not least, Vea Vecchi’s Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia: Exploring the role of ateliers in early childhood education is such an important text for bringing the practice of ateliers in to the American schools. Ann Lewin-Benham writes, “the atelier and atelierista are vital to what Reggio educators call the hundred languages of children, which in turn are integral to how children become competent”. Vecchi’s text will dispel any illusions you may have about the RE approach being an “art” education. Art and Creativity is a bit memoir as well as an elucidation of theory and practice. After reading, I had a deeper understanding of the relationship between the atelier and the school, the atelierista and the classroom teachers. I also have a much clearer picture of the role of artistic exploration in the school community’s investigations and projects, and the important role of creative expression (in the hundred languages) in children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. A must read! For the TOC, check here.
©Shelley Welch 2016