Little Review: How Janusz Korczak gave children a voice
FACT volunteeer Hannah Lea, delves a little deeper into the meaning and history behind Maly Przegląd (Little Review), that forms part of the Sharon Lockhart exhibition and wonders what would
25 July 2014
In 1926, Warsaw’s largest Polish language Jewish newspaper, Nasz Przegląd, published the first edition of a supplement entitled Maly Przegląd (Little Review). Janusz Korczak, an orphanage director, created this Friday supplement; he wanted to form an insert that was created and edited entirely by children.
Children contributed to the newspaper through letters, phone calls or if they wanted, by going down to the editorial office just to talk about what was on their mind. This honest and novel approach generated a detailed account of the children’s experiences, worries and observations in their own voice.
Little Review soon became a forum for genuine and serious conversations, and a catalyst for actual change. During year one of the newspaper, a series of articles concerning barbed wire that was installed around a playground were published, resulting in the wire being taken down. After this moral victory, the publication continued to act as a mouthpiece for the opinions, feelings and issues important to children to be channelled into adult discourse and, hopefully, to be taken seriously.
By the mid-1930s, Little Review had grown up alongside its contributors and it become a site of dialogue and exchange between Polish and Jewish youth. It began to include letters from Polish Catholic school children, helping to bridge the gap between ethnic groups that were becoming increasingly opposed. By including what were largely regarded as conflicting voices, Little Review was able to work towards eradicating prejudices and identify unifying similarities.
The last known copy of the newspaper is dated September 1 1939, the same day that Germany invaded Poland, marking the start of World War II. This is one aspect of Little Review I find myself thinking about again and again, its huge potential for change, which was cut short by the eruption of World War II…
So what if things were different and the newspaper had continued? Where would it be today? How could children have changed the spaces around them? Giving every individual a voice is crucial, regardless of age or background; it helps us to have a better understanding of the world around us. Little Review, and its story, shows that children can be, should be and are fully- fledged members of society’s dialogue.
While looking into Little Review in more detail, I found a (translated) quote from the creator, Janusz Korczak, made just before the first edition went to print that I found particularly interesting,
"There are many adults who write only because they feel no shame, and there are children who have many great ideas, remarks and observations, but don't write, because they lack courage or just don't feel like it. Our newspaper will encourage them to write. Encourage and embolden them." (Culture.pl, 2012)
I think this gives a real sense of his rationale behind Little Review and why he felt so passionately about it, dedicating his life to the paper and the children who created it. I think that is what made Little Review speak to Sharon Lockhart in such a way that formed the basis for her own untitled work, as they share a strong desire to encourage children’s agency and allow their voices to be heard.