The Future is Now: The Child as Citizen

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Being in the early childhood education sector for so many years, there are some things that I get tired of hearing. Too often, I hear it said, “Children are the future”. I often counter to say that the future is now. Even more annoying is to hear the future being used as a rationale to prepare children in preschool for what lies ahead. I laugh now as I remember having a discussion about mandatory circle experiences for children and being told that they have to learn to be patient, to sit, listen and wait for others. Why I asked? The answer was so that they would learn to wait in line at the bank! The future is now – I do my banking on line – no waiting required! Does the child not have a right to choose to participate in circle? Are they not currently citizens of this world rather than citizens of the future? What does the child as citizen mean? In Reggio Emilia the concept of “child as citizen” starts right from birth. According to Carlina Rinaldi in Re-Imagining Childhood:


The child has a right to citizenship. What does that look like in our classrooms? Our classrooms play a primary role for children to learn to become citizens of a community and citizens of the world. In thinking about the child as citizen I find myself reflecting on documentation. How important is it that the children see themselves in the documentation? The belief in the Reggio Emilia approach is that every human being has equal value and that even the youngest among us are citizens with rights. All members of society – children, families, and teachers should have access to documentation (McNally & Slutsky, 2016). I find it disturbing when documentation is not made visible to children especially when it is the expectation in my province, Ontario that it is seen as:

  • A way to value children’s experiences and include their perspectives;
  • A way to make children’s learning and understanding of the world around them visible to the children themselves;
  • A process for educators to co-plan with children and with families;
  • A means of sharing perspectives with parents and colleagues.

Children should see documentation visible in their learning environments both indoors and outdoors. In a new textbook that I am co-authoring with Beverlie Dietze called Outdoor and Nature Play in Early Childhood Education, we have a chapter on documentation and we are excited to feature photos of outdoor documentation. Documentation indoors and outdoors should be accessible to children. They should be invited and encouraged to share their thoughts, ideas about the documentation and even co-create the documentation.

The Canadian Early Childhood Education Collection

It is important that we don’t pigeon hole documentation to think that it always has to take a certain form and be in a certain place. Documentation books and portfolios can be viewed by children on a daily basis inside their classrooms. When children view documentation panels in their outdoor classrooms, they see that they are valued and that outdoor play is valued. I love these photos that an educator sent me of documentation that is posted outside.

    Photo credit: Katarina Josipovic

According to McNally & Slutsky (2016) documentation is not always permanent or in panel form. Technology has provided advances to the process so that it is easy to create digitally and share digitally. We need to reflect though on whether children are being left out. Documentation should communicate to children that they are citizens with rights. They need to feel valued and in turn they will be invaluable to the curriculum process. To view children as citizens invite them to access and co-create documentation. It is their right. Join the #ReggioPLC Twitter Chat in conjunction with the Calgary Reggio Network Association (CRNA) #ReggioYYC on November 6th at 9:00 pm EST to discuss the children as citizens. All welcome!


4 thoughts on “The Future is Now: The Child as Citizen

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and research about citizenship and it’s relationship to documentation. I wonder if the relationship is also about co-creation of learning spaces as a cerebral response to interactions. When the child engages in documentation there is a reflective nature to the interactions that may be recorded through the writing or scribing. It is in this dynamic process that the thinking about the interaction on a cognitive as well as emotion space that deeper meaning making occurs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is on my mind every day. The advocacy for children’s rights has an auspicious history in the U.S. too (e.g., Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund) yet even in the more progressive cities of this country the image of the child is underdeveloped. And underexposure contributes to this. How many schools are 1) sharing what children are doing with the wider community so that more people can be awestruck? 2) spending children’s learning time outside of their site to be visibly engaged in the wider community? 3) participating with children in civic affairs?
    Diane et al, sometime maybe please blog about Child Friendly Cities? For example here’s a start:


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