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Listening to the Child

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Written by  Published in: Early Childhood Education (Blog)

 The Hundred Languages

Author:- Loris Malaguzzi, (Translated by Lella Gandini)


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!


How we understand children and their world can inform how we interact with them. It can also help the significant adults – parents, teachers - to organize the day for children keeping their needs and curiosities in mind. By creating a resource rich, stimulating, sensitive, warm, caring and trustworthy environment we are likely to give flight to their imagination. They can then relate and make meanings of the world at their own will and pace.

We hardly listen to children! We love to just talk, talk, and talk to children; we hardly talk with them. Talking with children would assume that we adults don’t look children as mere pygmies or miniature adults or unreasonable beings. It would mean that children are treated with dignity for being children, their thoughts are given as much importance and value as any thought would be given in a discourse. As teachers we spend more time putting questions to them rather than pausing to listen to their thoughts. If we closely look at the kinds of questions they have to put up with, they are far from enabling, supportive; rather they are mostly ‘what’ questions – what are major modes of transport, what did the crow do to quench his thirst, what is the name of your grandmother and so on. These questions just bombard them with facts and accumulating more facts. This process allows child to acquire answers to those questions which are not his/hers. Quite unfortunate! What can we do to bring a change?

Children are great story tellers. Their stories are imaginative at the same time steeped in reality; they are humorous at the same time vein of sadness and anger is reflected in them. Their stories reflect their keen observation, sensitivity to the world around them. They are a great insight to their inner world. But we miss out on the richness of this resource. We rather explore innovative ways to educate them forgetting the already rich repertoire of knowledge they bring into the classroom. 


Read 3299 times Last modified on Monday, 06 May 2013 07:00

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