Loris Malaguzzi: A child has 100 languages

Children are naturally curious and eager to learn. These traits are best nurtured when children are allowed to discover things for themselves and express themselves in more ways than just words. Loris Malaguzzi, an influential educator, saw children as born researchers with ‘100 languages’ to express themselves. His educational approach, developed in Northern Italy with parents, focuses on respectfully unlocking children’s capacities. It’s about recognizing and supporting children’s intrinsic urge to learn and communicate.

Inspiring Life Journey

Born on February 23, 1920, in Reggio Emilia, Malaguzzi was influenced by the aftermath of World War II. He started his teacher training in 1939 and later earned a degree in Pedagogy. The desire for reconstruction and a better future led him to a project in Villa Cella, where residents gathered resources to build a school. Malaguzzi’s encounter with this group, and his subsequent role as a teacher and psychologist in the school, laid the foundation for his later pedagogical work.

Core of Malaguzzi’s Vision

Malaguzzi’s pedagogical approach is about recognizing the strength of children. Rather than focusing on what children ‘cannot yet’ do, he emphasizes the importance of appreciating their current skills and potential. Children are naturally curious and want to explore the world around them. Malaguzzi underscored the importance of listening to and observing children, to see how they express themselves in versatile ways, such as through drawing, sculpting, or singing.

Environment for Development

According to Malaguzzi, it’s essential for children to have access to interesting materials and the freedom to experiment. This not only stimulates their creativity but also reveals the endless possibilities of reality through the eyes of a child. His vision is that education should help children climb their ‘own mountains,’ encouraging them to reach as far as possible in their creative and intellectual development.

The Power of Listening

Malaguzzi’s educational philosophy reminds us of the importance of listening to and learning from children. His vision emphasizes that children are not just learners but also teachers with a unique view of the world. By giving them the space to express and develop in their own way, we open the door to a richer and more creative future. Malaguzzi’s legacy is a reminder that every child holds a world of possibilities.

Loris Malaguzzi was an educator, psychologist, and the inspiration behind Italian childcare in Reggio Emilia, a city in Northern Italy. This poem by Loris Malaguzzi summarizes one of the principles of the Reggio Emilia educational approach:

“A child has a hundred languages, but the school and society steal ninety-nine of them.”

The child is made of 100.

The child has 100 languages, 100 hands, 100 thoughts, 100 ways of thinking, of playing, of speaking.

100, always 100 ways of listening, marveling, loving. 100 joys for singing and understanding.

100 worlds to discover. 100 worlds to invent. 100 worlds to dream.

The child has a hundred languages (and a hundred, hundred, hundred more) but they steal 99.

The school and society separate the head from the body.

They tell them: to think without hands, to do without the head, to listen and not to speak, to understand without joy, to love and to marvel, only at Easter and Christmas.

They tell them: I give you the already discovered world and from the 100 they steal 99.

They tell them: that work and play, reality and fantasy, science and imagination, sky and earth, reason and dream, are things that do not belong together.

In short, they tell them that the 100 is not there.

The child says: NO WAY, THE 100 IS THERE!