Children’s Rights and
ACEI’s Love Me, Teach Me Campaign

Kristy Timmons & Aurelia Di Santo, Editors, 2018

The Love Me, Teach Me Campaign was first produced by ACEI in 2010. The campaign was created to help all those who care for and teach children to be aware of and support children’s rights. This campaign is still relevant today, as we consider how to ensure that children’s rights are understood and protected in communities throughout the world.

The aim of this brief, specifically, is to raise educators’ awareness of children’s rights as they relate to the four cornerstones of ACEI’s Love Me, Teach Me campaign. Scroll down to read about each cornerstone: See Me, Hear Me, Love Me, and Teach Me.

We hope that educators will use this brief to reflect upon the rights of children and consider how, as educators, they can support those rights, both in school and through the child’s experience in surrounding community life.

We thank Kristy Timmons of Queens University and Aurelia Di Santo of Ryerson University for developing this brief and understanding the importance of children’s rights and highlighting the responsibility of educators in securing those rights.


Cornerstone 1. See Me:
The Child’s Right to Identity

By Kathryn Underwood, Noah Kenneally, & Kristy Timmons

Do you see me? Do you know who I am? Do you know my name?

Every child has the right to be seen, the right to have a name, and the right to a nationality—that is, the right to an identity. In some nations, this right may involve ensuring that children are named and registered at birth. This officially recorded document is crucial for establishing a child’s nationality. In countries where birth registration is a standard and routine practice, fulfilling the entire scope of rights associated with identity may involve even deeper levels of commitment. All sectors—social, political, and economic—must work to ensure that all children are visible members of their society, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, ability, family status, or national origin.

Children should be visible members of their community.

As educators, how can we honor and respect the rights of children?

  • Know children’s legal names, their preferred names, and the names of significant others in their lives to demonstrate that they are seen and recognized.

  • Acknowledge that children’s identities are complex and multi-faceted, just as adults’ identities are.

  • Acknowledge the culture of each child’s family and support the child in embracing and learning about his/her cultural identity.

  • Cultivate an environment that encourages “children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures” (UNICEF, 2014, p. 3).

  • Work to remove barriers that children may encounter when developing their own identities, including preconceived ideas and assumptions about children, to ensure that they are recognized for who they are—individuals with their own thoughts, ideas, and needs.

  • Recognize that as children grow and change, their identities grow and change with them as they learn more about themselves and learn from their life experiences.

  • Listen to and observe children. These are important strategies for getting to know how they view themselves and their identities.

  • Ask children thoughtful and respectful questions in order to understand them better—their likes and dislikes.

  • Understand that ALL children have the capacity to think and act for themselves, including children with disabilities or chronic illnesses; the best support for all children in order to help them formulate their own unique identity is ensuring that they have access to the resources they require to grow and develop optimally.


UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child (2014)

Article 8

Children have the right to an identity – an official record of who they are. Governments should respect children’s right to a name, a nationality, and family ties.

Article 29

Education should develop each child’s personality, talents, and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights, and their own and other cultures. It should also help them learn to live peacefully, protect the environment, and respect other people. Education should promote respect for the values and culture of their parents.


Cornerstone 2. Hear Me: The Child’s Right to Participation

By Aurelia Di Santo & Kristy Timmons

Do you hear me? Do you include me? Do you listen to me when I share with you my ideas and opinions? Do you think about me when you make decisions?

Participation, while undertaken individually, is a group process. It is more than forming and expressing an idea—it can involve exchanging knowledge and services, fostering and reinforcing relationships, and promoting stewardship and civic responsibility. Participation is how children not only learn about the world around them, but also experience their environment. When children are prevented from participating, be it because of exclusion from a group activity, lack of access to medical care, or disregard for their opinions, especially in regard to matters that directly affect them, they are being sent a message that their needs and thoughts are not important. If children’s right to participate is denied, it is difficult to ensure that their other rights will be protected and promoted.

Children should be provided opportunities to participate, whether voicing their opinions and ideas or being provided access to necessary services.

As educators, how can we honor and respect the rights of children?

  • Recognize that children express their views, ideas, and opinions in many ways, and it is important for us to think about how we listen to children. Taking children’s views seriously means going beyond acknowledgment by incorporating their feedback, taking action on it, and making changes to practices and relationships (Nutbrown & Clough, 2009).

  • Ensure that approaches to child participation are designed sensitively and appropriately and are based upon the child’s developmental level.

  • Create time in your program to listen to children’s ideas and perspectives. Children are insightful and curious about their world. Setting time for class meetings, individual and small-group conferences, and collaborative activities creates opportunities for children to be heard and engaged in a democratic environment.

  • Understand that children can be assets to the learning planning process. They are experts on their lived experiences and thus have the ability to co-construct knowledge and inquiry and foster learning in the classroom.

  • Demonstrate the value of a shared space for educators, children, and families that reflects a communal place for collaborative interactions and participation.

  • Employ a “rights-integrative approach” (Di Santo & Kenneally, 2014) to early learning that focuses on the child’s role in the program.

  • Include children’s ideas, interests, and viewpoints in your planning process, giving children opportunities to be meaningfully involved in the program. Acknowledge that children are impacted by larger and broader issues in the world beyond their immediate circumstances and that they may have a need to express their viewpoints on such issues.

  • Consider what is important to children when creating teaching and learning and service system plans, in addition to including the perspectives of staff.

  • Design programs that consider both the needs of children who are attending the school, while also anticipating the changes to school make-up and the diverse needs of the children who may enroll in the future.


UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child (2014)

Article 12

Children have a right to express their views and opinions on matters that affect them.

Children’s views should be considered based on the individual child’s age and maturity level.

Article 13

Children have a right to freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression can include the right to pursue, receive, and share information using different media.

This right includes respecting the rights of others.


Cornerstone 3. Love Me: The Child’s Right to Security, Stability, and Protection

By Katie-Jay Scott Stauring, Meenakshi Dahal, & Aurelia Di Santo

Do you love me? Do you know that I need to be cared for? Do you know that I need to feel secure?

Parents are the primary caregivers of their children. They undertake a range of responsibilities and duties in order to foster and facilitate their children’s overall physical, emotional, social, moral, and spiritual development. The primary task of a parent, however, is to love and care for their child—to provide them with a nurturing family environment where they are treated with dignity and respect and are free from abuse and neglect. For various reasons, some children cannot live with their parents. In such cases, children should be placed in the care and custody of extended family members or foster families who can provide them with a loving home in which they can thrive. Many sectors of societies can make positive contributions to the security and protection of children. Loving children can be the directly personal experience of loving a child we are related to, or a more distanced experience in which we take children into consideration when we decide how to conduct our business—from the designing of commercial advertising campaigns to the development of public policy.

Children should be loved. Love can be expressed to children in multiple ways from many sectors of society.

As educators, how can we honor and respect the rights of children?

  • Support parents in their role as the primary caregivers of their children and include parents in decision making for their children’s learning.

  • Advocate for children’s right to live with their parents or, if this is not possible or safe, the closest relative who can care for them.

  • Support children during separation from their families by addressing their immediate needs and showing them love, caring, and support.

  • Respect children, no matter their family status, religion, ethnicity, race, or gender identity.

  • Recognize that conflict within a family, within a community, and during conflict and war is always a threat to a child’s safety and take appropriate steps to protect them.

  • Include ALL children in your program, regardless of their status as a child-citizen, displaced person, refugee, asylum seeker, immigrant, and/or child with disabilities.

  • Ensure that all children, regardless of their abilities, receive special care, attention, and support for their learning.

  • Provide children who have experienced a threat to their safety with an environment that is inclusive, respectful, and psychologically safe to support their trauma recovery and restore their stability.

  • Show children that they are valued, respected, and loved and are important people in our lives.

  • Provide an environment that is free from physical and mental abuse, individual or community-level violence, and exploitation.

  • Advocate for community spaces (e.g., schools, parks, markets) that prioritize children’s interests and well-being.

  • Implement strengths-based behavior guidance strategies that guide children toward being their best selves.

  • Be an informed professional by knowing where to access resources to help children heal from negative experiences.

  • Advocate for the right of children never to be used in conflict or as child soldiers.

  • Advocate against systems and policies that are not in children’s best interests.


UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child (2014)

Article 6

All children, living everywhere, have the right to live.

Article 20

Children have the right to special care and help if they cannot live within their family environment.

Article 39

Children have the right to help if they’ve been hurt, neglected, or exploited.

Article 19

All children everywhere have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, in body and mind.

Article 32

Children have the right to be protected from work that harms them.

Article 33

Children have the right to be protected from harmful drugs and from the drug trade.


Cornerstone 4. Teach Me: The Child’s Right to Education

By Bethany Robichaud, Angela Lenis, & Shufang Shi-Strause

Do you know that I like to learn? Do you know that I like to explore and experiment?

Education is fundamental to a child’s development. However, simply having access to schools, teachers, and educational materials does not guarantee that children will receive a quality education. Efforts must be made by parents, caregivers, educators, and community members to ensure that education promotes the development of the whole child from birth throughout adolescence. Education should be culturally appropriate, promote dignity and respect for the child, encourage exploration, and be designed to support all children, regardless of their level of ability. Education should help each child to reach their full potential and acknowledge that learning extends beyond of the classroom walls. In their communities, children should have access to books, magazines, newspapers, television and radio programs, and other media sources that are age-appropriate and encourage rich and meaningful learning experiences.

Children should have access to quality educational materials and experiences that engage their full potential.

As educators, how can we honor and respect the rights of children?

  • Design and deliver education in a way that teaches children about and fosters respect for human rights, individuality, culture, diversity, peace, and understanding. Viewing children’s early learning experiences through a children’s rights lens supports rights-integrative learning (Di Santo & Kenneally, 2014) while nurturing children’s evolving interests, abilities, and identities.

  • Inspire meaningful learning that supports children as rights-bearers through respectful observation and consideration of children’s unique dispositions, families, interests, and abilities—both individually and collectively. Respecting children’s individuality and unique approaches to learning speaks to each child’s capacity as a learner and empowers all children to succeed and flourish.

  • Seek children’s perspectives concerning their learning, to encourage participation and give children a voice. A collaborative, engaging, and representative environment will ignite children’s current and future learning potential.

  • Involve children in the development of engaging indoor and outdoor learning environments that are representative of their cultures, families, personalities, identities, and interests. This stimulates children’s natural curiosity, fosters meaningful learning, and lays the foundation for future discoveries and exploration.

  • Provide meaningful opportunities for children to explore their communities at large. This strengthens a child’s connection to and relationship with their friends, family, fellow citizens, the environment, and the larger world.

  • Cultivate an appreciation for the interconnectedness of our world, of human rights, and for the beauty and diversity of our local and global environments.

  • Provide children with many opportunities to engage with a range of culturally relevant and appropriate natural learning materials that are available in their own communities.

  • Offer opportunities for meaningful engagement, discovery, and exploration in all areas of learning to ensure children’s development is holistic and their education is supportive of their rights.


UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child (2014)

Article 28

Children have the right to free, equitable, accessible education that respects their individual and collective dignity.

Article 29

Children have the right to an education that recognizes and nurtures their unique personality, talents, and abilities and respects their cultural identity, language, nationality, and familial values.



Association for Childhood Education International. (n.d.). Love me, teach me campaign. Retrieved from:

Di Santo, A., & Kenneally, N. (2014). A call for a shift in thinking: Viewing children as rights-holders in early childhood curriculum frameworks. Childhood Education, 90(6), 395-406.

Nutbrown, C., & Clough, P. (2009). Citizenship and inclusion in the early years: Understanding and responding to children’s perspectives on “belonging.” International Journal of Early Years Education, 17(3), 191-206, doi:10.1080/09669760903424523

UNICEF. (2014). FACT SHEET: A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from


Meenakshi Dahal
Research Student
Kathmandu University School of Education

Aurelia Di Santo, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
School of Early Childhood Studies | Ryerson University

Noah Kenneally
Ph.D. Candidate
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education | University of Toronto

Angela Lenis
Toronto District School Board

Bethany Robichaud
Ph.D. Student
Educational Studies | University of Prince Edward Island

Katie-Jay Scott Stauring
Chief Operating Officer

Shufang Strause, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Childhood/Early Childhood Education Dept.| SUNY Cortland

Kristy Timmons, Ph.D., RECE, OCT
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Education | Queen’s University

Kathryn Underwood, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
School of Early Childhood Studies | Ryerson University