New ‘resource pack’ developed by UNICEF provides fresh perspective on understanding children
By Priyanka Pruthi
NEW YORK, United States, 8 November 2011 – It’s being considered a breakthrough in communication strategies for children – a ‘resource pack’ developed by UNICEF, which provides development professionals with a fresh perspective on understanding children, by producing media and materials specifically for, and about them.
The “Communicating with children” resource pack, launched recently in New York, presents principles and guidelines that aim to help experts listen to, discuss with and learn from children, while planning their own communication for development strategies.
“It provides simple, practical information to help us understand the what, the why and the how, of effective communication with children,” said Rina Gill, UNICEF’s Gender, Rights and Civic Engagement Associate Director. “In addition, it shares dozens of examples on the application of the core principles and guidelines we are promoting.”
‘Balanced communication diet’
The resource pack is based on extensive, collective field experience. Researchers spoke with children, families, child development experts, caretakers, teachers, programme staff and others at village, city and international levels. Through this exhaustive research, “positive examples” have been gleaned to illustrate guidelines, and a comprehensive list of resources representing a wide range of countries and media.
Highlighting the negative role of the media in children’s development, Dafna Lemish, co-author of ‘Communicating with Children’ resource pack stressed that it was time to focus on the positive. “There is so much research and so much field experience to tell us that if media can teach children bad behaviour and develop problematic world views and values, then it has a potential to do the same thing in a positive way,” she said. “Messages that include children’s needs, points of view can make a deep impact on their growth.”
The authors of the resource pack emphasized their belief that effective communication is a two-way process for sharing ideas and knowledge.
“The principles (in the resource pack) ensure that we create child centred and not adult centred messages so children have this balanced communication diet,” said Barbara Kolucki, co-author of ‘Communicating with Children’. “Children are our central guides for producing quality communication…their feedback is central to our work.”
The next step
Speaking at the launch of the resource pack, Dr. Virginia Casper, Supervised Fieldwork Advisor, Course Instructor at the Bank Street College of Education, explained that the research can often distance adults from children but the authentic ways portrayed in the pack countered that. “The emphasis in the pack is on the active role that children play in their own development and in change, and I think that’s one of the key messages here that gets placed in the side-lines too often,” she said.
Discussing the next step for the resource pack, panellists underlined the issue of dissemination and outreach.
“This is only as good as the people that use it and have access to it and I think my big message is that this is big and it needs to get out and you need to really be thinking about that distribution strategy,” stressed Dr. Charlotte Frances Cole, Vice President for Education and Research at Sesame Workshop. “You have a responsibility in a way to all the people you want to reach and that won’t be easy.”