Curating Resources about the Reggio Emilia Approach

Dr. Diane Kashin, RECE.

While on lockdown, many of us are turning to activities that bring joy, heeding the words of Loris Malaguzzi, “nothing without joy”. I love curating digital resources and sharing them with others. The appreciation that I receive fills me with joy. As I engage with online content, searching for resources and archiving them, I am learning. Curation may not be your typical professional learning activity. It is not listed in the web of professional learning activities provided by Ontario’s College of Early Childhood Educators, to aid registered early childhood educators working, like I am, on our CPL (Continuous Professional Learning portfolio cycle).  

However, there is professional learning value to curation! I have learned so much about curation from the website Langwitches: The Magic of Learning. After, I shared Resources for Play-Based Learning, I heard from early childhood educators who asked that I curate other topics. One of the goals of curation is to add value to the learning of others. When topics are suggested that relate to my own goals and are areas of interest, I feel motivated to take on the challenge. I was asked to put together resources on the Reggio Emilia Approach. When searching, for resources I found digital content on the approach to be plentiful. There are many, many websites from early years programs all over the world that describe the Reggio Emilia Approach as influential to their philosophy and they share information related to the history and principles. These are not primary or academic sources. The search has to go deeper. When learning about the Reggio Emilia Approach you need to engage your mind. It is important to make your own interpretations of the content, to question, to think, to wonder. I hope what I have curated will be helpful to your professional learning in a deep and meaningful way.

Taken at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, March 2018

I hope that this page helps to increase understanding about this complex approach to early learning. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there! Reggio Emilia is a place. It is not a person. The Reggio Emilia Approach has reached celebrity status and finds itself considered along other brand names models/approaches such as Montessori, Waldorf and High Scope (New, 2007). I created this handout a few years back as an overview of different models and approaches. It is by no means comprehensive. I would encourage you if interested to do your own searching and curating.

To begin, you need to learn about the history of the Reggio Emilia Approach. This video is a powerful telling of the post-World War II, origins of the approach.

I found this article, to be helpful and the subtitle, “Oregono? Reggio What? And Who is Emilia?” is amusing and thought-provoking. Written by Rebecca New (2007) it looks at the epistemological origins of the approach so that we can ponder “how such highly particularized ideas could grow and develop in one setting and then be dispersed around the world where they have taken root and flourished in diverse but hospitable soils” (p. 6).

Epistemology is one of my favourite words to say but one that is hard to understand. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. Think about it this way, learning about the Reggio Emilia Approach from primary and academic resources will help you move away from opinion (I like the approach, I don’t like the approach) to being able to articulate your beliefs and values.

Taken at the Remida Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, March 2018

Before sharing more digital resources, I want to make sure that in your quest to learn more about the Reggio Emilia Approach that you go directly to the primary source which is Reggio Children, “an international center for the defense and promotion of the rights and potential of boys and girls. It was created to enhance and strengthen the experience of the municipal nursery schools and kindergartens of Reggio Emilia, known in Italy and worldwide as Reggio Emilia Approach”. The Reggio Children website is a beautiful wealth of resources that includes a rich array of books to purchase. One of my all-time favourite Canadian bookstores, Parentbooks carries Reggio Children publications as well as “Reggio-inspired” publications. The books published by Reggio Children are awe-inspiring and aesthetically beautiful. One that has had a big impact on my understanding is Children, Spaces, Relations: Metaproject for an Environment for Young Children. Any of the Reggio Children books are worthwhile purchases. This one was especially helpful to me in understanding the concept of the environment as the third teacher and the impact it has on relationships.

If you wanted to start with one book from the long list of publications written about the Reggio Emilia Approach I would highly recommend that you begin with The Hundred Languages of Children the definitive reading on the Reggio Emilia Approach® edited by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini, and George Forman, now in its third edition.

Reading books and perusing digital resources are different experiences and both are valuable. Also, incredibly worthwhile is visiting Reggio Emilia and attending a study tour which will provide you with encounters with the town and the schools. While the experience is costly, it is also priceless. I have cherished memories of my three visits to Reggio Emilia. I revisit my photos often as they bring me such immense joy! Sharing the experience of Reggio Emilia with colleagues who are friends was life-changing!

Taken in Reggio Emilia, Italy, March 2018

Reggio Emilia looks very different now than it did in 2018, the last time I was there. I invite you to watch this video taken during the worldwide pandemic as there is something very hauntingly beautiful seeing Reggio Emilia this way.

Aside from my time in Reggio Emilia, one of the greatest experiences of my professional life was when I had the privilege of spending time with Lella Gandini, the North American liaison for the Reggio Emilia Approach. In fact, when she was visiting a few schools here in Ontario, I got to be her driver! This article by Lella, focuses on the values and the principles of the approach. This should be required reading for anyone interested in examining the philosophy that underpins the approach. For all the articles in this blog, if you click on the images, you will be taken to the source.

Lella also translated into English the amazing Hundred Languages poem written by Loris Malaguzzi which I have framed and hanging in my house. Anything written by Lella or Malaguzzi, will help you deeply examine and consider the Reggio Emilia Approach. I have found reading Malaguzzi’s words about this education based on relationships to be so meaningful in this time of COVID-19.

Carlina Rinaldi worked closely with Malaguzzi before he passed away in 1994. In 2011, she was appointed President of Reggio Children and the Loris Malaguzzi Centre Foundation. In 2012-2013 she was a Thinker in Residence in Adelaide, South Australia. The report Rinaldi provided after her time in Australia will help you think deeply about some very challenging questions including: What is your image of the child? What is the role of the school in society? This is also my go-to resource for a detailed description of the guiding principles of the approach.

Anything that you find written by Rinaldi will help you in your understanding of the Reggio Emilia Approach. In this article about pedagogical documentation, Rinaldi asks us to be open to the theories of children. To listen. To have this image or attitude of the child is transformative. It assumes the view of the child as a capable, competent researcher.

This attitude of the child means that the child is a real researcher . . . Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty. How can we support and sustain this attitude of children to construct explanations? (Rinaldi, 2004, p.2).

I am a voracious watcher of CNN especially during this time. Many, many years ago, when I attended a conference at York University on the Reggio Emilia Approach this clip from the cable news network was shared and at the time I felt it helped me really understand the approach. While it is dated, it is still a valuable resource especially for those starting on their learning journey.

Another valuable resource is entitled, “Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Emergent Curriculum in Relationship-Driven Learning Environments” as it chronicles the experience of a program in Arizona directly influenced by the schools of Reggio Emilia.

Biermeier (2015) also has been inspired by the writings of Lella Gandini and has forged a fond relationship with her as she has visited the school with regularity. The article speaks to the importance of addressing how values are communicated through practice. For this approach to be meaningful to your practice, you need to go beyond hashtags on Instagram and pins on Pinterest. These pretty pictures of environments and set-ups are not enough. As Margie Carter suggests in an article published in 2009, we need to go beyond thinking that we are “Doing Reggio”. Carter suggests that these are important questions to ask on our learning journey:

  • Why are you interested in the Reggio approach?
  • What are you doing that you think is inspired by Reggio?
  • How would you describe the core ideas underpinning Reggio practices?
  • Are these similar or different from your earlier philosophical and pedagogical approach?
  • What is unique about your context, history, or values that shapes your own identity as you draw inspiration from Reggio?
  • How does this influence the way you want to transform or strengthen your practices?
  • What is your process for learning from what you are doing and for continuing to deepen your understandings and practice?

Howard Gardner, the cognitive psychologist and author, best known for his theory of multiple intelligence has spent time thinking and learning about the Reggio Emilia Approach. It is important that we pay attention to his words. Whatever our context is, we can find inspiration in relationship to the foundational ideas of this complex approach and grow our own interpretations in our own native soil in our home/heart.

I invite you to watch this video taken in Reggio Emilia, called Piazza-Piazze and think about another quote from Gardner.

The early childhood centres in Reggio Emilia ‘stand as a stunning testament to human possibilities’ ~ Howard Gardner

I welcome and invite comments and feedback on these curated resources. Did you find this page helpful? How might you apply what you have learned about the Reggio Emilia Approach to practice? I hope this last quote will leave you thinking and inspired to continue your learning journey. While, this page provided you with curated resources on the approach, I am asking, what if, children believed that their theories and ideas were resources?

There is an inner voice that pushes children on, but this force is greatly multiplied when they are convinced that facts and ideas are resources, just as their friends and the adults in their lives are precious resources. It is especially at this point that children expect – as they have from the beginning of their life adventure – the help and truthfulness of grownups ~ Loris Malaguzzi