As an early childhood educator and researcher, I’ve always found that child-adult interactions are what set the pace for power-relations in society. Come to think of it, an adult has a superior physical and cognitive power over a child. The adult then decides how to use this power when dealing with a child. If they choose a child-centered approach where the child is considered as a citizen with a voice, not only does the child grow with the ability to understands others’ perception and have the maturity of accepting diversity, but something in the adult also changes. They become more conscious of their very own discourse and actions.
In authoritarian societies, the supporters of dictatorships and nationalism are not really young people. They are actually almost always the older generation.
That actually made me think that it’s not enough to raise the “citizens of the future” but the citizens of today have to work on themselves because they’d still be important protagonists in the conversation about democracy in the future.
I thought of an attempt to tackle this, of a project where a child and an adult are citizens of the same importance despite the disparity in their cognitive and physical resources. I created what would soon be a tablet application called CoAuthor. CoAuthor is an application that helps a caregiver and a child (2.5 to 6 years old) discuss ideas they care about together, put them into digital books and publish them on CoAuthor’s online library to inspire other children and caregivers.
In CoAuthor the caregiver is not a teacher, s/he is a collaborator, a co-creator, a co-researcher trying to understand with the child. CoAuthor gives real time discursive tips (things to say to the child) to the caregiver throughout the book creation process to ensure they maintain a reassuring, constructive and curious way of speaking to the child.
If we revisit the way we speak to child, we don’t only reshape how their brains work, we also change ours!