Alphabet as Materials

My heart feels lighter the moment I hear, “THIS is the library I was talking about!” as a beaming 4 year old skips into the library entrance.  My biggest Take-Away from my Masters in Literacy program was to instill a love and passion for reading, for that is the foundation to creating a lifelong Reader. How this little girl enters the library is how everyone should enter the library in my opinion. Clearly she is filled with joy to be here and I can only imagine what stories and topics she will discover in books today.

But what if there’s more to literacy than books? What if there were more elements to creating a lifelong reader than stories told, heard and read?

It wasn’t until I embarked literature on the Reggio Emilia Approach that I learned the idea of materials having the ability to take on expressive aspects and meaning comparable to verbal and expressive language (Schwall, p. 49).  This concept blows my mind away.  The idea as children using material to communicate content, carry meaning, create and develop thoughts is foundational to the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia.


This is not new news for the Artist. The more I read from Loris Malaguzzi, (one of the main founders of the Reggio Emilia Approach from Reggio Emilia, Italy) the more I realize he saw the world and everything in it as a work of art.  His view of the child seemed elevated as if everything a child did was seen with utmost respect, as if the child was a famous artist at work and observing the child was a great privilege to witness.  I wish I could have met the man.

How does the way we view children relate to this concept of an Alphabet of Materials? Simply this: How do you view children when they are interacting with materials? I think there’s 2 categories of lenses here to peer through: One of the Artist and one of a traditional mindset.  I’ve been in both categories…

Artist Mindset: How is my child interacting with this material? What are they saying as they interact with it? What questions can I ask my child that will make this experience more meaningful? How is this material bringing them joy? How long did they stay engaged with this material? What factors may have caused them to stop engaging with this material? 





Traditional Mindset: The child is busy so I can go finish something else.  What a mess this is creating! Here’s how you use this… That’s not right, here’s how you do it… 

I’ve heard mothers and fathers say things like, “I want to homeschool, but I don’t think I’m qualified.”  Here’s the secret: You don’t have to be a Teacher to homeschool your child(ren).  You may not be teacher qualified, but you’re more than qualified to teach your child because YOU are your child’s first and best teacher.  I think having the mindset of an Artist is helpful and will open up opportunities for learning.  If we stop and observe how our children engage and interact with materials and their environment, we’re going to know how to connect and extend their learning experiences.

As a stay at home mom, I definitely still take advantage of those opportunities my girls are engaged in something to get housework or important tasks done.  I’m just challenging myself and you, dear reader, to take some moments out of your day to clear your thoughts and carefully observe your children, especially when they’re interacting with material. I think you’ll be surprised and fascinated by what you see.  A shift in mindset needs to occur. This is the key to homeschooling: Not only are you your child’s best teacher, but your child will show you the way, making you an expert. 

My current source of inspiration for his blog post is inspired from

In the Spirit of the Studio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s