Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Vivian Gussin Paley  

Pen Name: None

Genre:

Audience: Adult; Children; Children;

Born: 1929 in Chicago, Illinois


-- Vivian Gussin Paley on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=vivian+gussin+paley


Illinois Connection

Taught and lived in Chicago for 37 years.

Biographical and Professional Information

Vivian Paley taught preschool children for 37 years, much of that time at the University of Chicago's Laboratory Schools. She is the only Kindergarten teacher to ever receive one of the MacArthur "genius" grants. In addition to teaching, Paley has written more than 10 books about life in the classroom.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner
ISBN: 0226644928

University Of Chicago Press. 1986

"Paley has a sharp ear for the rhythm and inflections of childhood. Her vignettes give us a revealing glimpse into children's inner lives, and her discussion of her own discomfort with boy's play and approval of that of girls raises and important issue."—Carole Wade, Psychology Today

"I will admit my biases up front: having a three-year old daughter of my own made it impossible for this book to be anything but fun to read. I dare anyone who enjoys children not to enjoy this story about stories, this narrative about narratives."—Jerry Powell, Winterthur Portfolio

Mollie Is Three: Growing Up in School
ISBN: 0226644944

University of Chicago Press. 1988

"No adult can escape the adult perspective but simply recognizing its inevitable limitations in a children's world enables a few gifted educators to accept the existence and vilify of whole kindergartens full of different perspectives. One such person is Vivian Gussin Paley. . . . Her books. . .should be required reading wherever children are growing."—New York Times Book Review

"With a delightful, almost magical touch, Paley shares her observations and insights about three-year-olds. The use of a tape recorder in the classroom gives her a second chance to hear students' thoughts from the doll corner to the playground, and to reflect on the ways in which young children make sense of the experience of school. . . . Paley lets the children speak for themselves, and through their words we reenter the world of the child in all its fantasy and inventiveness."—Harvard Educational Review

"Paley's vivid and accurate descriptions depict both spontaneous and recurring incidents and outline increasingly complex interactions among the children. Included in the narrative are questions or ideas to challenge the reader to gain more insight and understanding into the motives and conceptualizations of Mollie and other children."—Karen L. Peterson, Young Children

Bad Guys Don't Have Birthdays: Fantasy Play at Four
ISBN: 0226644960

University of Chicago Press. 1991

Bad guys are not allowed to have birthdays, pick blueberries, or disturb the baby. So say the four-year-olds who announce life's risks and dangers as they play out the school year in Vivian Paley's classroom.

Their play is filled with warnings. They invent chaos in order to show that everything is under control. They portray fear to prove that it can be conquered. No theme is too large or too small for their intense scrutiny. Fantasy play is their ever dependable pathway to knowledge and certainty.

" It . . . takes a special teacher to value the young child's communications sufficiently, enter into a meaningful dialogue with the youngster, and thereby stimulate more productivity without overwhelming the child with her own ideas. Vivian Paley is such a teacher."—Maria W. Piers, in the American Journal of Education

"[Mrs. Paley's books] should be required reading wherever children are growing. Mrs. Paley does not presume to understand preschool children, or to theorize. Her strength lies equally in knowing that she does not know and in trying to learn. When she cannot help children—because she can neither anticipate nor follow their thinking—she strives not to hinder them. She avoids the arrogance of adult to small child of teacher to student or writer to reader."—Penelope Leach, author of Your Baby & Child in the New York Times Book Review

"[Paley's] stories and interpretation argue for a new type of early childhood education . . . a form of teaching that builds upon the considerable knowledge children already have and grapple with daily in fantasy play."—Alex Raskin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Through the 'intuitive language' of fantasy play, Paley believes, children express their deepest concerns. They act out different roles and invent imaginative scenarios to better understand the real world. Fantasy play helps them cope with uncomfortable feelings. . . . In fantasy, any device may be used to draw safe boundaries."—Ruth J. Moss, Psychology Today

The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter
ISBN: 0674080319

Harvard University Press. 1991

How does a teacher begin to appreciate and tap the rich creative resources of the fantasy world of children? What social functions do story playing and storytelling serve in the preschool classroom? And how can the child who is trapped in private fantasies be brought into the richly imaginative social play that surrounds him?

The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter focuses on the challenge posed by the isolated child to teachers and classmates alike in the unique community of the classroom. It is the dramatic story of Jason-the loner and outsider-and of his ultimate triumph and homecoming into the society of his classmates. As we follow Jason's struggle, we see that the classroom is indeed the crucible within which the young discover themselves and learn to confront new problems in their daily experience.

Vivian Paley recreates the stage upon which children emerge as natural and ingenious storytellers. She supplements these real-life vignettes with brilliant insights into the teaching process, offering detailed discussions about control, authority, and the misuse of punishment in the preschool classroom. She shows a more effective and natural dynamic of limit-setting that emerges in the control children exert over their own fantasies. And here for the first time the author introduces a triumvirate of teachers (Paley herself and two apprentices) who reflect on the meaning of events unfolding before them.

You Can't Say You Can't Play
ISBN: 0674965906

Harvard University Press. 1993

Who of us cannot remember the pain and humiliation of being rejected by our classmates? However thick-skinned or immune to such assaults we may become as adults, the memory of those early exclusions is as palpable to each of us today as it is common to human experience. We remember the uncertainty of separating from our home and entering school as strangers and, more than the relief of making friends, we recall the cruel moments of our own isolation as well as those children we knew were destined to remain strangers.

In this book Vivian Paley employs a unique strategy to probe the moral dimensions of the classroom. She departs from her previous work by extending her analysis to children through the fifth grade, all the while weaving remarkable fairy tale into her narrative description. Paley introduces a new rule―“You can’t say you can’t play”―to her kindergarten classroom and solicits the opinions of older children regarding the fairness of such a rule. We hear from those who are rejected as well as those who do the rejecting. One child, objecting to the rule, says, “It will be fairer, but how are we going to have any fun?” Another child defends the principle of classroom bosses as a more benign way of excluding the unwanted.

In a brilliant twist, Paley mixes fantasy and reality, and introduces a new voice into the debate: Magpie, a magical bird, who brings lonely people to a place where a full share of the sun is rightfully theirs. Myth and morality begin to proclaim the same message and the schoolhouse will be the crucible in which the new order is tried. A struggle ensues and even the Magpie stories cannot avoid the scrutiny of this merciless pack of social philosophers who will not be easily caught in a morality tale.

You Can’t Say You Can’t Play speaks to some of our most deeply held beliefs. Is exclusivity part of human nature? Can we legislate fairness and still nurture creativity and individuality? Can children be freed from the habit of rejection? These are some of the questions. The answers are to be found in the words of Paley’s schoolchildren and in the wisdom of their teacher who respectfully listens to them.

Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher's Story
ISBN: 0674505867

Harvard University Press. 1996

"All these white schools I've been sent to are racist," Sonya says. "I'd have done better in a black school. I was an outsider here." These are hard words for Vivian Paley, whose own kindergarten was one of Sonya's schools, the integrated classroom so lovingly and hopefully depicted by Paley in White Teacher. Confronted with the grown-up Sonya, now on her way to a black college, and with a chorus of voices questioning the fairness and effectiveness of integrated education, Paley sets out to discover the truth about the multicultural classroom from those who participate in it. This is an odyssey undertaken on the wings of conversation and storytelling in which every voice adds new meaning to the idea of belonging, really belonging, to a school culture. Here are black teachers and minority parents, immigrant families, a Native American educator, and the children themselves, whose stories mingle with the author's to create a candid picture of the successes and failures of the integrated classroom. As Paley travels the country listening to these stories, we see what lies behind recent moves toward self-segregation: an ongoing frustration with racism as well as an abiding need for a nurturing community. And yet, among these diverse voices, we hear again and again the shared dream of a classroom where no family heritage is obscured and every child's story enriches the life of the schoolhouse.

"It's all about dialogue, isn't it?" asks Lorraine, a black third-grade teacher whose story becomes a central motif. And indeed, it is the dialogue that prevails in this warmly provocative and deeply engaging book, as parents and teachers learn how they must talk to each other, and to their children, if every child is to secure a sense of self in the schoolroom, no matter what the predominant ethnic background. Vivian Paley offers these discoveries to readers as a starting point for their own journeys toward community and kinship in today's schools and tomorrow's culture.

The Girl with the Brown Crayon: How Childen Use Stories to Shape Their Lives
ISBN: 0674354427

Harvard University Press. 1998

Once again Vivian Paley takes us into the inquiring minds and the dramatic worlds of young children learning in the kindergarten classroom.

As she enters her final year of teaching, Paley tells in this book a story of farewell and a story of self-discovery--through the thoughts and blossoming spirit of Reeny, a little girl with a fondness for the color brown and an astonishing sense of herself. "This brown girl dancing is me," Reeny announces, as her crayoned figures flit across the classroom walls. Soon enough we are drawn into Reeny's remarkable dance of self-revelation and celebration, and into the literary turn it takes when Reeny discovers a kindred spirit in Leo Lionni--a writer of books and a teller of tales. Led by Reeny, Paley takes us on a tour through the landscape of characters created by Lionni. These characters come to dominate a whole year of discussion and debate, as the children argue the virtues and weaknesses of Lionni's creations and his themes of self-definition and an individual's place in the community.

The Girl with the Brown Crayon tells a simple personal story of a teacher and a child, interweaving the themes of race, identity, gender, and the essential human needs to create and to belong. With characteristic charm and wonder, Paley discovers how the unexplored territory unfolding before her and Reeny comes to mark the very essence of school, a common core of reference, something to ponder deeply and expand on extravagantly.

The Kindness of Children
ISBN: 067400390X

Harvard University Press. 2000

Visiting a London nursery school, Vivian Paley observes the schoolchildren's reception of another visitor, a handicapped boy named Teddy, who is strapped into a wheelchair, wearing a helmet, and barely able to speak. A predicament arises, and the children's response--simple and immediate--offers Paley the purest evidence of kindness she has ever seen.

In subsequent encounters, "the Teddy story" draws forth other tales of impulsive goodness from Paley's listeners. Just so, it resonates through this book as one story leads to another--taking surprising turns, intersecting with the narrative unfolding before us, and illuminating the moral meanings that children may be learning to create among themselves.

Paley's journey takes us into the different worlds of urban London, Chicago, Oakland, and New York City, and to a close-knit small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her own story connects those of children from nursery school to high school, and circles back to her elderly mother, whose experiences as a frightened immigrant girl, helped through a strange school and a new language by another child, reappear in the story of a young Mexican American girl. Thus the book quietly brings together the moral life of the very young and the very old. With her characteristic unpretentious charm, Paley lets her listeners and storytellers take us down unexpected paths, where the meeting of story and real life make us wonder: Are children wiser about the nature of kindness than we think they are?

In Mrs. Tully's Room: A Childcare Portrait
ISBN: 0674011163

Harvard University Press. 2003

In Mrs. Tully's Room makes a quiet but powerful case for the pedagogical skill and psychological insight that childcare providers―so often underpaid and undervalued―can bring to their work. It also emphasizes how warm, quasi-familial, even mentoring relationships can develop between childcare providers and their preschool families.

A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play
ISBN: 0226644898

University of Chicago Press. 2005

The buzz word in education today is accountability. But the federal mandate of "no child left behind" has come to mean curriculums driven by preparation for standardized tests and quantifiable learning results. Even for very young children, unstructured creative time in the classroom is waning as teachers and administrators are under growing pressures to measure school readiness through rote learning and increased homework. In her new book, Vivian Gussin Paley decries this rapid disappearance of creative time and makes the case for the critical role of fantasy play in the psychological, intellectual, and social development of young children.

A Child's Work goes inside classrooms around the globe to explore the stunningly original language of children in their role-playing and storytelling. Drawing from their own words, Paley examines how this natural mode of learning allows children to construct meaning in their worlds, meaning that carries through into their adult lives. Proof that play is the work of children, this compelling and enchanting book will inspire and instruct teachers and parents as well as point to a fundamental misdirection in today's educational programs and strategies.


Awards

NCTE David H. Russell Award,1999. John Dewey Society`s Outstanding Achievement Award, 2000 Erickson Institute Award, 1987.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (No)