The Hundred Languages of Children – Poem

In all of my reading and research of teaching and learning philosophies, the poem below (written by the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach) has stood out more than anything. It encapsulates my excitement in watching my little girl explore and learn through the ‘hundred languages’ and my fear in what school and culture might do to harm her ability to exercise those languages.

It’s beautiful but it’s scary.  It is my hope that if I can do my part to prepare my child to be one that will say:  “No way. The hundred is there!”

No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

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

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

– Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lelia Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach