As Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach: Using Children’s Books to Invite Multiple Perspectives

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE I have written about perspective before. Perspective is a fascinating word for it can be defined in multiple ways. Perspective is:

  • A particular way of seeing something.
  • To think about a situation or problem in a wise and reasonable way.
  • To compare something to other things so it can be accurately and fairly judged.

Perspective-taking is a tool for learning at the professional level and as an invitation for children to see from the eyes or views of others. Perspective can be seen as an attitude or point of view which gets richer, more complex and deeper when we are open to multiple viewpoints. In preparation for a workshop for the Reading for the Love of It conference I am revisiting the concept of perspective and thinking about the hundred languages of children. Children possess a hundred languages, which mean that they have a hundred ways of thinking and expressing themselves. A hundred languages is a metaphor of the extraordinary potentials of children. A hundred languages is a way to think of opportunities for children to collaborate, realize new potentials and deepen their relationships with others. Books can be an invitation to think deeply, opening children’s minds and eyes to the complexities of their world. I love using children’s books in the workshops that I facilitate. I am always looking for recommendations and appreciate when others share their favourite children’s books. During a workshop when a participant shared, They all Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, I was thrilled to find this joyous exploration of perspective. I am so appreciative of Tory McTaggart from Bound 2 Learn for the complimentary copy of this book and many others that I will share here and during my workshop at the Reading for the Love of It conference.

The Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education also offers an opportunity for joyful exploration of seeing different perspectives for anyone willing to take the journey. The journey of professional learning should be about being open to differing perspectives. Perspective-taking is important. It is important for children and for adults. In Mind in the Making Ellen Galinsky describes perspective-taking as involving distinct and significant skills for children, including:

  • Determining how someone else feels – trying to figure out how another person is feeling or thinking.  
  • Inhibitory control – by putting our own thoughts on hold we can engage in perspective taking to think about the world from someone else’s understanding.
  • Cognitive flexibility – to switch up our perspective we have to look outside the box of our normal thinking.

Through the magic of books, children can be encouraged to make meaning from multiple perspectives. They can practise cognitive flexibility where they change the focus of attention from themselves to someone else. They can practise inhibitory control when taking the perspective of others. They can collaboratively or individually determine how someone else feels, practising empathy. Try out these books to encourage perspective-taking. If there are any that you know that are not listed here please add your recommendations in the comment section. Even if you don’t have a recommendation but want to add your own perspective, please provide a comment! I will be giving away a copy of They all Saw a Cat to someone who adds their comments below!

Zoom by Istvan Banyai is a great little book that gives the reader an opportunity for perspective-taking. This wordless book can be read from front to back or back to front which in itself is a way to view things differently. For those readers of this blog who are inspired by the Looking Closely series by Frank Serafini, here is another opportunity for zooming in and looking closely.

Another book, that can be read from back to front or front to back is Humpty Dumpty: Flip-side Rhymes by Christopher Harbo. This a great way to give children a chance to practise cognitive flexibility!

My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer is a wonderful example of how wishful thinking can influence perspective. Again, I am really thankful to Tory from Bound 2 Learn for these book recommendations.

Someone New and I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien are companion books that can help children take different perspectives to understand how others feel.

Of all the books that I have read and reflected on that help children take the perspective of others, the one that has really taken my breath away and given me the opportunity for inhibitory control is I Like, I Don’t Like by Anna Baccelliere. Every child has the right to play and this book shows children that in some parts of the world others spend more time working than playing. This is an important book for perspective-taking as it so aptly captures how different the world can be from different perspectives.

Being open to new perspectives helps us to see different views. It helps everyone to learn to be empathetic and to reflect on social justice. In this wonderful article Children’s Perspective in Play: Documenting the Educational Process the authors relate the theory of a hundred languages to the listening perspective as Rinaldi (2006) explains, listening is a mode of thinking and perceiving oneself in relation to others and the world. This is as important for children as it for adults. Being open may lead to cognitive dissonance where there is a conflict of perspectives. In another wonderful article, Capturing Student Perspectives Through a ‘Reggio’ Lens the authors state that a conflict of perspectives should be part of the process of listening “where speakers constructively confront each other, experience conflict, and seek footing in a constant shift of perspectives” (Edwards et al., 1998, p. 241). What do you think about children practising perspective-taking? Do you have any recommendations for books that will encourage children to see the world through the eyes of others? Please add your ideas, thoughts and recommendations in the comment section. At the end of next month I will randomly draw and send out a copy of They All Saw a Cat to some lucky reader!

20 thoughts on “As Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach: Using Children’s Books to Invite Multiple Perspectives

  1. One of my favorite books, and one that I recommend often to fellow teachers and colleagues is “One” by Katheryn Otashi. It and it’s companion book “Zero” teach children about bullying by seeing the effect it can have, and how working together to solve a problem can make all the difference. I love these books!

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    • Thank you, Diane for a wonderful session at reading for the love of it conference! I am really excited about all of your book suggestions and activities for the classroom.

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  2. My recent favorite is “What Do You Do With an Idea?” By Kobi Yamada. Story tells us we can embrace an idea and try it out. When we get brave and take chances, an idea will come alive and we will have amazing experiences.

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  3. So many wonderful ideas! Thank you for sharing! Just wondering if anyone has any suggestions of French texts that they have already tried? Thanks in advance!

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  4. Wow Diane! As always you bring forth ideas and challenge us in our way of thinking. I am always looking at ways to bring books into our School Age Programs. I often find that educators stop using books once children are in school. Let the school take care of the ‘reading’. But we can use books in so many ways and your idea of “perspective taking” is one that will aid me with continuing to nudge our before and after school educators. Thank you. A few books that I often use with kindergarten are: “I Wonder” by Anneka Harris and the Stella and Sam series by Marie-Louise Gay. I will use “Stella, Queen of the Snow” when I introduce inquiry based learning to our educators. Stella is the epitome of Inquiry and definitely offers different perspectives. Do snowmen actually eat snowballs?? Who knows? Maybe.

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  5. Thanks for posting these wonderful books, Diane! I love The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume. There’s also Mirror, Mirror which has great perspective.

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  6. Pink is for Boys! By Robb Pearlman.

    It hits home for me raising two children that don’t fit into those typical gender boxes!
    When living in a world where they are still surrounded by so many gender stereotypes it is hard pressed to find something that they can relate to.

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  7. “Red: A Crayon’s Story” is also a beautiful book that I highly recommend. It does an excellent job of looking critically at the idea of our identities being based partly upon what others think about us, which can be invaluable for young children.

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  8. “Flashlight by Lizi Boyd is a playful, thought-provoking, wordless picture book. A child in a tent shines a light into the world – and sees only what is illuminated by its triangular beam. Readers will enjoy discussing what they see – and also what they do not. Flashlight gets readers thinking about what we see – and what we miss – when observing the world around us through a narrow beam.”

    “Small Wonders – Jean Henri Fabre and His World of Insects by Matthew Clark Smith illustrated Giuliano Ferri is an engaging nonfiction biography of French entomologist Fabre, who from childhood was enchanted by insects. His story will inspire readers to look closely at the world around them, discovering that wonders hide just out of sight.”

    “Flotsam by David Wiesner. Honestly, I could include any David Wiesner book on this list. His genius lies in the unexpected – whether it be frogs on flying lily pads as in TUESDAY or, as in FLOTSAM, a series of photographs recovered from a camera dredged up from the bottom of the sea. Wiesner’s books encourage readers to drop their preconceived notions of what is possible, and to closely observe the details of his illustrations – and the ways the details might trick you.
    When you’re done pouring over the books, check out his amazing app, SPOT. Users zoom in and out of pictures, finding with each change in size, a new world within a world within a world. Fascinating.”

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  9. We recently read “Grumpy Pants” , by Claire Messer. The penguin recognizes his own grumpiness and does things to help himself. I think it can be a 1st step to recognize feelings in yourself before recognizing feelings in others.

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  10. I have often felt that perspective taking is actually at the very very heart of the Reggio approach – even wrote a couple short blog posts about it a while back!

    Posted by Garden Gate Child Development Center on Friday, April 18, 2014

    Posted by Garden Gate Child Development Center on Monday, June 13, 2016

    Thanks for the book recommendations!
    Leigh Ann

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  11. Voices in the Park by Anthony Brown presents 4 different experiences of the same meeting in the park…a way for children to think about multiple perspectives.

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