Ann Lewin-Benham Photo
Book Cover for Possible Schools Book Cover

New Book 2012



New Book 2011


Possible Schools and Powerful Children

Ann’s two books on the Reggio Approach are Possible Schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education (2006) and Powerful Children: Understanding How to Teach and Learn Using the Reggio Approach (2008).  They are written from an American perspective and with sensitivity to the strengths of inner city families. In them she elaborates the nine essential features of the Reggio Approach and, with a different focus and different stories in each book, brings those features to life in an American school in an urban environment -- the Model Early Learning Center.

New Book 2010

Ann's book Infants and Toddlers at Work provides guidance in creative ways to use hundreds of common materials (no paper plate "art") and shows how each material builds the brain. Throughout are references to current research in the neurosciences on early brain development. Ann explains why activities in the book spur brain growth.

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The books about the Model Early Learning Center (MELC) tell the story of the school Ann founded in Washington, DC. The MELC was located at the Capital Children’s Museum, which Ann also founded. The school operated under contract to the D. C. Public Schools and enrolled children from 6 over-subscribed public school Head Start sites. The public school system certified the families’ financial eligibility, and the MELC hired teachers, created the environment, developed the program, and administered all aspects of the school.

Ann chose to adapt the practices of the Municipal Preschools of Reggio Emilia, generally considered the best in the world. She convinced Amelia Gambetti, a retired Reggio teacher, to be the MELC’s Master-Consulting-Teacher-in-Residence during 2 school years. With Amelia’s guidance, the MELC achieved Reggio’s accreditation, the only school outside the city of Reggio Emilia ever to receive this high accord.

Possible Schools (2006)
The book Possible Schools tells the stories of the MELC's difficult start-up, how it almost failed, and what accounted for its eventual success -- the  who, when, why, how, and where of the school.

Who – explains how Ann’s prior work led her to start the MELC, the intrepid teachers who followed her, the Reggio Emilia educators who inspired them, and the children and families who enrolled.

When – describes the milestones in the journey to create a Reggio-accredited school at a distance thousands of miles from Italy and in a culture light years apart.

Why – reveals Ann's motivation and that of the teachers,of the children and families, and of the outside supporters who bought into the vision of the MELC becoming a Reggio-inspired school.

How – lays out exactly what the MELC staff did in changing their beliefs and practices as they gradually deepened their understanding of the Reggio Approach.

Where – shows what it was like to adapt the Reggio Approach in an American inner city in the unusual environment of the nation’s capital where there is a world focus but indifference to the city’s problems.

Because it is highly explicit in how to get started, the book is especially helpful for anyone trying to use the Reggio Approach.  It explains what to do when you despair of ever "getting" it, and how to move ahead despite the difficulties.

To purchase Possible Schools follow this link.

Powerful Children (2008)
The book Powerful Children tells the stories of the robust projects that children, teachers, and families in the Model Early Learning Center (MELC) undertook: “Fall,” “Coco the Cat,” “The Easter Dove, the Cuckoo Bird, and the Nest,” and many more inspired by practices of the schools of Reggio Emilia. In the book Ann introduces the concept of significant work as work that is creative, complex, original, competent, and joyful.  With many case studies throughout, the book shows what took place in the MELC.  Detailed scenarios, one complex project per chapter, show why, years after it closed, the MELC continues to be a touchpoint to understand the Reggio philosophy and practices. The book is organized so that each project is related to one of the nine essential features of the Reggio Approach and also to one of nine issues of critical importance to early childhood in the US. Issues include the impact of the American culture on children and families, self-regulation, school-readiness, literacy, assessment, and more.

Both books lay out policy implications and Powerful Children suggests how current standards, which Ann considers non-specific to a fault, could be of more help to educators, parents, and policy makers.

To purchase Powerful Children follow this link.

Infants and Toddlers at Work (2010)

The book Infants and Toddlers at Work shows how, beginning at birth, materials can spur infants' joy, passion, and engagement with others. In 10 chapters, the book goes from the reciprocal games mothers and infants play to, around 3 months, introduction of simple then increasingly complex materials -- almost all "found" objects, readily available at home. In scenarios we see a 6 month old begin to use clay, a 10 month old use glue, 14 month olds learn about scissors, 18 month olds invent complex movement games with materials of their choosing. The book continues with chapters on tempara paint, artists clay, paper galore, mark-making, man-made "found" objects, natural objects, and light and shadow, along the way showing scenarios for using a wealth of diverse materials. Many scenarios draw their inspiration from projects in Reggio infant/toddler centers. All activities are explained in the context of recent findings from the neurosciences on how the brain works and develops. Activities show how materials build the brain in powerful ways.

The foreword was written by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (chik sent muh hi) who headed the University of Chicago's psychology department and wrote the seminal book Flow (1990) explaining the psychology of peak performance. In the foreward to Infants and Toddlers, he says, "Reading this book will forever change the way you think about how children learn."

To purchase Infants and Toddlers at Work follow this link.


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