A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play

University of Chicago Press
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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.
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About the author

Vivian Gussin Paley, a kindergarten and nursery school teacher for thirty-seven years, primarily at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, has received numerous awards and accolades, including a MacArthur Award and most recently the John Dewey Society's Outstanding Achievement Award. She is the author of eleven books, three of which are published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 15, 2009
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Pages
111
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ISBN
9780226644981
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Elementary
Psychology / Developmental / Child
Psychology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Four-year-old Eli plays alone at the shore, inventing dramas out of sand and water. He is Builder, Fireman, Protector, and Scout, overcoming waves and conquering monsters. Enter Marianne and doll, Mother and Baby, eager to redefine Eli as a good father and homesteader. Their separate visions intertwine in a search for a common ground on which howling wolves and butterfly sisters can learn to understand and need one another.

What can the richly imagined, impressively adaptable fantasy world of these children tell us about childhood, development, education, and even life itself? For fifty years, teacher and writer Vivian Gussin Paley has been exploring the imagery, language, and lore of young children, asking the questions they ask of themselves.

In The Boy on the Beach she continues to do so, going deeper into the mystery of play as she follows Eli and Marianne through the kindergarten year, finding more answers and more questions. How does their teacher, Mrs. Olson, manage to honor and utilize the genius of play to create an all-inclusive community in which boys and girls like each other and listen to each other’s stories? Why is Paley’s fellow teacher Yu-ching in Taiwan certain that her children pretend to be kittens in order to become necessary to the group? And why do teachers in London see their childrens’ role-playing as the natural end to loneliness in the school community?

Rich with the words of children and teachers themselves, The Boy on the Beach is vintage Paley, a wise and provocative appreciation of the importance of play and enduring curiosity about the nature of childhood and the imagination.

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