LISTENING TO CHILDREN
What do you value most about your community? What do you wish you could change? As citizens of a democracy, adults grapple with these seemingly simple, yet highly complex questions.
What if children were asked these same questions from an early age? What if we listened to their answers?
In 1992, a UNICEF article described children as "the most photographed and least listened to members of society.” Nelson Mandela once said, "The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children."
We believe a community that listens to its children is a community that values and respects the participation of all its citizens—from childhood to adulthood.
If children practice contributing to their communities at an early age, supported by loving caregivers who offer inspiring tools to engage and participate, imagine how much more prepared they could feel entering the world as compassionate and independent young adults!
Listening to Children Means:
• Searching for patterns & connections between their ideas & your ideas.
• Using all of your senses & emotions—not just your ears.
• Asking questions to inspire imagination or learn about concerns.
• Valuing their point of view, experience & feelings.
• A willingness to see things differently, be open to change & remain curious.
COMMUNITY CAMERA WALK
Viewing the world through the lens of children leaves a lasting impression. Take a Community Camera Walk in your neighborhood. Give your shutterbug a digital camera or smartphone. Invite them to express their own point of view by capturing their surroundings including:
• Things they enjoy about their neighborhood & community. This could include people, places, activities and more!
• Things they don't enjoy about their neighborhood & community.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” —Marcel Proust
Be open to surprise! Your child may point out scenes, angles, and views you haven't paid attention to before. Remain open to the camera shots they frame and embrace unexpected perspectives.
When you return, review your photographer's snapshots! Discuss why they chose to capture each moment. Ask your child to explain their thinking with open-ended questions such as:
• What do you like about…?
• What do you dislike about…?
• What makes you feel that way?
• What changes would like you to see made?
• How can you show appreciation for your favorite people, places, pets & things?
Print out the photos and invite your child to arrange them on a poster collage. Try adding a few direct quotes from your child under the images to empower their opinions. Then, find a place to publicly display your child’s poster within your home as a focal point for further discussions about enhancing your community. As a caregiver, think about tangible ways you might publicly advocate on their behalf.
If a camera isn’t available, capture this experience with colored pencils and a clipboard, or even a sound recording. Try our Let's Take a Soundwalk! experience.
"BE HEARD" BOOKS
ENJOY THESE PAGES WITH ALL AGES!
Dive into stories that honor the unique perpspectives, opinions, and contributions of children. "Whoever You Are," our differences can unite us and strengthen the world.
A book you read to your three-year-old will transform when seen through the eyes of that same child at age ten. Your questions and conversations will evolve. The connections will be fresh.
The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald
Fifteen ethnically diverse children select a favorite body part and contribute a handwritten paragraph or poem about it.
Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield
25th Anniversary Picture Book Edition: A young girl recounts the many things she loves that make her life special in a joyous poem.
Just Ask! | Solo pregunta! by Sonia Sotomayor
Bilingual Book: Feeling different, especially as a child, can be tough. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities of children (and people of all ages).
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
A young boy rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things.
I Like it When | Me Gusta Cuando by Mary Murphy
Bilingual Book: The young penguin in this board book edition likes holding hands, dancing, eating new things, reading and having all sorts of fun with an affectionate and caring older penguin.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty
When her abuelo is injured at the local landfill, second-grader Sofia is determined to transform the dangerous Mount Trashmore into a park, taking on City Hall in the process.
The Town of Turtle by Michelle Cuevas
In Turtle's shell there's room for only one. But in Turtle's heart, there is room for everyone! A lonely turtle comes out of his shell to find friendship and community in this celebration of diversity and inclusion.
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers
Rhyming text explores citizenship, showing readers how seemingly unrelated actions, like planting a tree or joining a cause, can create a community.
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
Despite the differences between people around the world, there are similarities that unite us, such as pain, joy, and love.
Revisit our Nelson Mandela: A Leader Who Listened issue for more on the value of listening to child's perspective.
OPAL SCHOOL BLOG POST
What If? by Tara Papandrew
"What if" thinking is playful and creative. It’s a way to identify problems and propose solutions. It invites our imaginative brain to play with our problem-solving brain. What if thinking dwells in possibility, it’s forward thinking. What if challenges the status quo and it agitates complacency. It feels hopeful.
Visit the Opal School blog to learn more about asking, What if?