The Reggio Emilia Curricular Approach for Enhancing Play Development of Young Children

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Given the increasing number of children from culturally and linguistically diverse family backgrounds in the United States, it is critical for researchers, teachers, caregivers, and other practitioners to explore efficient ways to meet these children's needs. The Reggio Emilia curricular approach may be one way to meet the needs of children in play skills and early literacy development. Research (Massey & Burnard, 2006) has previously shown the Reggio Emilia curricular approach to be effective for young children with disabilities. However, it has not been investigated as a curriculum for normally developing young children whose families have emigrated from other countries and for whom English is the second language. The researchers in this study wanted to explore the application of the Reggio Emilia curricular approach to the play development of the population of young children learning English as a second language. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore play and early literacy development of a child from a culturally and linguistically diverse family background whose family immigrated to the United States.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

As stated previously, the Reggio Emilia curricular approach has been extensively investigated with young children with disabilities, particularly those in inclusive settings. Therefore, the normally developing peers of young children with disabilities were often not the subject of the research. In this section of the paper, the research literature regarding the development of play skills and early literacy will be introduced as it pertains to the play development of young children from culturally and linguistically diverse family backgrounds.

Reggio Emilia Approach

Reggio Emilia is a town in Italy in which the whole community is remarkably dedicated to high quality preschool and infant/toddler programs (Clyde, Miller, Sauer, Liebert, Parker, & Runyon, 2006), particularly those young children with disabilities in inclusive settings. One of the identifying characteristics of the Reggio Emilia curricular approach is to view the nuclear family as well as all extended family members as teachers of the curriculum. It considers that all people around a child are crucial resources for child's learning and may engage in developing photographs, conversations, visual arts, and so on (Katz, 1996) around the emerging play. Thus, the Reggio Emilia curricular approach does not suggest structured and teacher-directed learning environment. Instead, teachers (adults) play a role as researchers, collaborators, or assistants to the child in this approach (Edwards, 1998; Massey & Burnard, 2006).

The Reggio Emilia curriculum has been used and extensively researched in inclusive settings with young children with disabilities who are integrating their play development with that of their normally developing peers. For these children, families often choose to be highly involved with their learning. With this emphasis of family's role in the child's development, the Reggio Emilia curricular approach also fits well with the beliefs of many families with cultural and linguistic differences. This curricular approach has been effective in decreasing behavioral issues while increasing thinking, problem solving, and creativity skills.

The Reggio Emilia curricular approach conceives of children as "Protagonists of their own learning" who are capable of active and up-and-coming pursuit of (Clyde et al., 2006, p. 216). Teachers need to plan an emergent curriculum that supports individual and group learning (Yu, 2008). However, the family members' roles have emigrated from other countries and not been investigated as an effective curriculum or tool for culturally and linguistically different young children whose families have for whom English is the second language. Therefore, does the Reggio Emilia curriculum effectively support these children's learning in utilizing family members and other adults in learning activities? …