We, early childhood educators, are entrusted with the care and education of young children. Thus, we are members of a support system for families. In order to be responsive to each parent’s personal needs regarding his or her roles as chief guardian of a child and important school partner, we ought to be truly committed to getting to know parents individually, and seeking to understand their personal stories. When we engage parents’ personal stories, we must listen carefully and identify the questions that will deepen our conversations around these stories. As educators, we want to participate in the empowerment of parents as our partner advocates for the best possible care and education of young children.

At the eighth summer conference for the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA), Tiziana Filippini (a pedagogical expert, pedagogista in Italian, from the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy) reiterated in front of educators from 31 U.S. states and 17 countries, “Education is a matter of common good. The goal is to make visible childhood and children’s right to participate in and connect with [the communities they live in]. Children are citizens.” There is no doubt that our ability as a society to educate and empower our young children to assume responsibility and leadership in the future directly maps to our prospects for a more socially just world where the basic human needs of all are satisfied. It is with this understanding at the forefront of our minds that we advocate for the rights of children as our youngest citizens.

Fundamentally, as we, adults, advocate for children’s access to quality care and education we might organize our efforts using the following threads for children’s rights:

  1. SAFE AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT: Children have a right to occupy safe and developmentally appropriate environments that promote a positive climate for growth and learning.
  2. AESTHETIC ENVIRONMENT AND MATERIALS: Children have a right to experience physical spaces and materials through the thoughtful environment designs and activity setups of adults that enhance children’s development of their aesthetic intelligence.
  3. ARRAY OF QUALITY MATERIALS: Children have a right to engage a wide array of quality materials like the basic materials blocks, clay, sand, water, and paint.
  4. CONTROL AND DECISION-MAKING: Children have a right to steadily assume control of decisions related to their personal needs and daily activities, especially during play.
  5. TIME TO CONSTRUCT KNOWLEDGE: Children have a right to use plenty of time to discover understandings about the things and persons they encounter–construct knowledge through personal experience.
  6. CHILD-ADVOCATE INTERACTIONS: Children have a right to interact with adults who seek to know children’s thinking about matters and honor children’s input by listening carefully and responding with interest and authentic respect for what children have to say and want to accomplish.

Each of the aforementioned threads of children’s rights will serve as an anchor for a series of discussions hosted by The Willows Nursery School scheduled for the year 2013. I encourage you to ponder each of these. Gather your thoughts. Perhaps, do a bit of research about what literature exists that might expand our thinking about children’s rights. I sincerely hope you will join us as we explore these important threads of children’s rights, and prepare to advocate for these rights through practical methods to be collaboratively outlined in our forthcoming meetings.