What does it mean to be Reggio-inspired?

Friday, August 14, 2015




So it's been a week, and quite honestly I haven't really left my new TransformEd Consulting Services: Studio Office Space... (I promise to blog more about this creative place in a separate post!).

When I heard that there would be another Reggio Emilia Study Tour, I thought that I would ask York University for special permission to have it count as part of my PhD.  I discovered that graduate students could indeed create their own directed reading courses and even collaborative inquiries with their colleagues.  It therefore, made sense that I followed up my trip to Reggio Emilia, Italy, which consisted of rich lectures, school visits, and cultural experiences with further readings.

My goal was to blog about my findings each day and share with you a glimpse into my reflections.  However, what happened to me, is something that often occurs when I am surrounded by amazing Reggio Emilia and Reggio Emilia-inspired resources... I become totally engrossed with the incredible approach and possibilities... It is almost as though I am transported to another time or space.  Lost in thought within a place where childhood and learning are at their best!!! And I didn't stop after reading just one article, or a single book to gather my thoughts, instead, I got sucked in and kept on going - text after text, until I become completely awe-stricken or overwhelmed!  It's a trance like state that I suppose I can't really describe, but I'm hoping some of you who are familiar with this philosophy would understand...  Once you begin to learn about it, you continue to crave more and more information!!!

Loris Malaguzzi often spoke of learning as a tangle of spaghetti, rather than a linear path.  Well my mind certainly feels this way, especially when I am inquiring, reading/researching, thinking, interpreting, and reflecting.  I find the inquiry process similar to the research process.  First you are curious...  You begin with many wonderings.  You start to dig deeper... and deeper... Your theories and questions become more and more complex or foggy at times...  I believe that we must all go through this experience of sifting through the tangles and being okay with the muddiness.  Once we embrace this part (the messy/uncertain part or part we fear), we are better able to bring some of our ideas together or begin to interpret them.  And perhaps after reflecting, it might lead us down the road of more wonderings than we even began with, but we not matter what, we are always thinking and learning!  Why stop, because we are afraid to be wrong?  Is there such thing as being wrong?  Is it the product or the process that we are seeking?

We all know a process takes time... "Uninterrupted time," as they say in Reggio Emilia.  And that is just what I plan to do... Take my time and process my thoughts...  





I am Reggio Emilia-inspired, as I genuinely admire their great respect for children and the learning process (among so many other things!).  Truthfully, a single blog post, or even series of blog posts would not do justice to my appreciation for the Reggio Emilia philosophy.  The Italian approach and educators have influenced my thinking, my teaching, my interactions with children, and even the way that I look at the world.  


I came across a few beautiful short selections in the book Insights and inspirations from Reggio Emilia (see full reference below) by authors that I admire about Reggio Emilia that I wanted you to read and enjoy with me:

(Gandini, L., Etheredge, S., & Hill, Lynn (Eds.). (2008). Insights and inspirations from Reggio Emilia: Stories of teachers and children from North America. Worcester, MA: Davis Publications, Inc.)



What does it mean to be inspired by Reggio?

"Reggio is a metaphor and a symbolic place.  Being in relation with Reggio allows people to hope,
to believe change is possible.
It enables you to cultivate dreams,
rather than being in a utopia.
Because a utopia is something very good but perfect;
instead dreams are something that you can have one night.
And there is also a feeling of belonging to something that is about education in its widest sense,
as a hope for human beings.
And Reggio is a place of encounter and dialogue
and not only with Reggio but with many related protagonists.
So Reggio makes room for people to dialogue, 
it provides an excuse to do this."

                                                                                                            -Carlina Rinaldi





The City of Reggio Emilia

"When I came to visit Reggio Emilia,
invited to see its world-famous preschools,
I expected another "small city miracle."
But I was not prepared for what I found.

It was not just that they were better than anything I have ever seen...
What struck me about the Reggio preschools was how they cultivated imagination and,
in the process, how they empowered
the children's sense of what is possible."

                                                                                                            -Jerome Bruner






Loris Malaguzzi Founder and Philosopher:
His Image of the Child

"One of our strong points has always been to start from an explicit declaration about the very open image of the child that we hold.

An image, in the sense of an interpretation, strong and optimistic about the child; 
a child who is born with many resources and extraordinary potentialities that never fail to surprise us; 
a child with autonomous capacities to construct thoughts, ideas, questions and attempts to give answers.
(A child) who has high capacity to dialogue with the adult,
to observe things and to reconstruct them entirely.

We see the child, every child, as a gifted child from whom there has to be a gifted teacher.  
This consideration has led us to the condition and also into the responsibility to always proceed with teachers unifying moments of theoretical research,
of theoretical values,
with the ones of practical experience."

                                                                                                            -Loris Malaguzzi






Since I am struggling to get some of my ideas down on paper,  I thought that I would share with you a few of the Reggio Emilia-inspired resources that have influenced my developing understandings about early childhood education.  They can all be ordered easily through websites such as Amazon, and are written by several North American authors who have visited Reggio Emilia Italy or learned about the approach and tried to bring it back to their own context.  In addition to the books I am sharing today, I have a whole pile of Reggio Children resources created and published from Italy, but I will save those too for another post. They are a little more difficult to get your hands on!


You probably are familiar with my love of colour and should not be at all surprised that I grouped these recommendations in rainbow fashion:







Of course there are more Reggio Emilia-inspired resources available on the market, and perhaps some other titles that were tucked away on my shelves that I might have missed!!!  No matter how many books I own and how hard I try, my Amazon wish list of "must have" resources just keeps on growing and growing!  

The newest book in my collection is Pedagogical documentation in early childhood: Sharing children's learning and teachers' thinking (photographed above with some of my documentation essentials-notepad to scribe student talk or to make observations, digital camera, and traces of student learning a.k.a. a work sample).  I would like to thank the author Susan Stacey for mentioning my blog within her writing, and for kindly sending me my own copy! Once I complete my book review, on what I already believe to be the professional text of the summer, I will post it for your reading pleasure!




Even my Ruby couldn't resist all of these amazing Reggio Emilia-inspired resources!  She often likes to get right into my photographs when I stage books or educational materials.






Have you written a resource or created an educational product that you believe my blog followers would benefit from? Please email me for the potential of being featured!  If I agree with the content, and it matches my philosophy of early childhood education, then I would be more than happy to write a review and share it with my audience.




A toddler walks out of our centre with his father.
Puddles from a winter warm spell lie in wait.
Kyle walks directly into the biggest puddle and stops, transfixed.
He looks for a long time--long enough for me to capture this moment with my camera.

Kyle's father looks on, intrigued, 
understanding Kyle's need for time.
What is Kyle thinking? What is he noticing?
What are his questions?

A seemingly ordinary moment fraught with potential can disappear easily.
But the gifts that have come from Reggio have changed the way I see children, and the way in which I live in the world.

                                                                                                             -Cathy Weisman Topal


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