The Fundamental Image of the Child

Carlina Rinaldi, the long-time pedagogista in Reggio Emilia, now Senior Consultant for Reggio Children, described the contrast between most cultures’ dominant image of the child as weak, in need of instruction for everything, in need of a mother’s or teacher’s constant attention, as an empty vessel to be filled with the knowledge of the adults. She contrasted this with the Reggio Emilia image of the child as a resource for energy for the present, hope for the future, a human with rights, competent, with much to offer, unique in its own way of living, learning, loving, a citizen from birth. From the perspective of this latter image, schools are the right of the child, not simply a service. Schools are a place where children can be listened to as they make sense of the world. In the largest sense, then, this image of the child extends to all ages as permanent learners. For instance, in this image of the child and adults, parents and teachers are not translators of knowledge; they are learners, researchers, partners with the child as, together, they co-construct knowledge. Rinaldi, Carlina, paraphrased from a talk with teachers at The St. Michael School, October, 14, 2004.

The Image of the Child

Children are strong, intelligent and capable from birth.

Teachers are deeply aware of the children’s potential and construct their work and the environment of the children’s experience to respond appropriately.  Children’s rights are recognized, as well as their needs.

Three Subjects of Education

Children, Parents and Teachers.
In order for children to learn, their well-being has to be guaranteed.
Such well-being is connected with the well-being of parents and teachers.

The Physical Environment

Schools pay special attention to the design and aesthetics of the space.

The life of the school and the work of the children are made visible and legible through documentation displayed on the walls.

Relationships as the Foundation of the System

Education focuses on each child, not considered in isolation but in relationship to with the family, other children, the teachers, the environment of the school, the community and wider society. Connecting children to the world.

The Role of Parents

Parents are considered to be an essential component to the program.

They are a competent and active part of the children’s learning environment.


A curriculum based on the expressed interests of the children shows value for their capabilities.

Along with adult’s insights, the diverse materials within the environment support emergent literacy and numeracy.