Reggio Emilia

Origins of the Approach

Reggio Emilia is an international movement of education, named after a city in Italy close to where it began. At the end of the second world war, the Italian Women’s Movement (UDI) were striving to create a new form of education that would prevent future generations from growing up in a culture of inequality and injustice. These women were instrumental in the formation of radically different preschools which were built from the rubble of damaged buildings. You can read more about this here.

Inspired by this community initiative – as well as the ideas of psychologists Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey – a teacher named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) trained as a psychologist and became a leader in the parent cooperative movement, supporting parents and teachers in the education of young children. 

He went on to found Reggio Emilia’s Psycho-Pedagogical Medical Centre and in 1963, began opening preschools in Reggio Emilia which he managed for several years.

Now around a third of all children up to the age of six who live in Reggio Emilia are educated at one of a network of over 30 schools which have been created by Malaguzzi and his contemporaries. The schools are run democratically by parents, teachers and the local community (Carnie 2017) and their success has been the inspiration for many other schools around the world.

Principals of the Approach

The Reggio Emilia approach is based on children’s rights and the idea that children have the potential for self-development. Sightlines Initiative, the UK resource centre for Reggio Emilia, outlines the key principals of the approach, including:

  • Children are connected – The child is a member of a community rather than an isolated individual. The child learns through interaction with peers and adults.
  • Children are communicators – They have the right to use many forms of symbolic representation: words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, music (the “hundred languages”).
  • The environment is the third teacher – Space is designed to encourage encounters, communication and relationships.
  • Educators are partners, nurturers and guides – Educators facilitate children’s exploration and guide experiences of open-ended discovery and problem-solving. They observe and listen closely to children in order to deepen their understanding of the children’s ideas and their ways of working together.
  • Families as partners – Families have an active role in the learning experience. They are encouraged to share their ideas, and are able to see what has been happening at school through documentation and discussions.

This video explains a bit more about the approach:

Reggio Emilia Schools Directory

You can search our directory of education providers for Reggio Emilia-inspired schools and learning communities in the UK.

Books About Reggio Emilia

Bringing the Reggio Approach to your Early Years Practice (Bringing … to your Early Years Practice)by Linda Thornton 

The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation, 3rd Edition, by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini, et al.

Understanding the Reggio Approach (Understanding the… Approach), by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton 

In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning: Contextualising, Interpreting and Evaluating Early Childhood Education (Contesting Early Childhood), by Carlina Rinaldi 

Experiencing reggio emilia: Implications for Pre-school Provision, by Leslie Abbott and Cathy Nutbrown

Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia: Exploring the Role and Potential of Ateliers in Early Childhood Education (Contesting Early Childhood), by Vea Vecchi 

In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia, Second Edition (Early Childhood Education), by Lella Gandini, Lynne T. Hill, et al.

Reggio-Inspired Mathematics, by Richmond School District

Reggio Emilia Encounters: Children and adults in collaboration, by Pat Wharton and Linda Kinney

Bringing Reggio Emilia Home: An Innovative Approach to Early Childhood Education (Early Childhood Education Series), by Louise Boyd Cadwell and Lella Gandini

Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia Experience (Bloomsbury Library of Educational Thought), by Kathy Hall

Alternative Approaches to Education: a guide for teachers and parents, by Fiona Carnie

Useful Reggio Emilia Websites

Reggio Children is an organisation which publishes information and organises events about the Reggio Emilia approach. It also has a network of useful contacts and organisations in other countries around the world. 

Sightlines Initiative is the UK reference organisation for Reggio Emilia’s preschools and an active member of the international network. It has a good reference section on the Reggio Emilia approach.

Interaction Imagination is a resource by play and education activist, Suzanne Axelsson. She offers workshops and presentations, and blogs about ideas that she has tested over the years, her thinking about play, ‘Original Learning’, working democratically with young children, The Reggio Emilia Approach, philosophy with children and more…

Reggio Emilia Facebook Groups

Reggio Emilia Inspired Practice

The Reggio Emilia Approach – Product Group Share

The Reggio Emilia Approach – Courses and Book Share

The Reggio Emilia Approach

Progressive Education GroupOur supportive forum discussing progressive approaches to education (including Reggio Emila) and why they are so important for the 21st century.