Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Vivian Gussin Paley  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult; Children; Children;

Born: 1929 in Chicago, Illinois

-- Vivian Gussin Paley on WorldCat --

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

  • Boys and Girls, Superheroes in the Doll Corner, University of Chicago Press, 1984
  • Mollie is Three, Growing up in School , University of Chicago Press, 1986
  • Bad Guys Don`t Have Birthdays, Fantasy Play at Four, University of Chicago Press, 1988
  • The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter, Harvard University Press, 1990
  • You Can`t Say You Can`t Play , Harvard University Press, 1992
  • Kwanzaa and Me, A Teacher`s Story, Harvard University Press, 1995
  • The Girl with the Brown Crayon, Harvard University Press, 1997
  • The Kindness of Children, Harvard University Press, 1999
  • In Mrs. Tully`s Room, A Child Care Portrait, Harvard University Press, 2001
  • A Child`s Work, The Importance of Fantasy Play, University of Chicago Press, 2004

Selected Titles At Your Library

Boys & girls :
ISBN: 0226644928. OCLC Number:

University of Chicago Press,. Chicago :. 1984.

In this book, Vivian Paley has re-created a year of kindergarten teaching in which she explored the differences in the ways children play and fantasize. Each year, swords and purses in hand, the children rush to proclaim themselves boys or girls. Watching the Cinderellas and Darth Vaders pursue their separate fantasies, Paley questions the cliches and prejudices of the teacher's curriculum that reward girls' domestic play while discouraging boys' adventurous fantasies. The children's own conversations, stories, playacting, and scuffles are interwoven with Paley's observations and accounts of her attempts to alter the children's stereotyped play. Their search for self-definition will reawaken our own childhood memories, and Paley's sensitive efforts to uncover her prejudices will illuminate our own biases, values, and expectations for our children.

Mollie is three :
ISBN: 0226644944. OCLC Number:

University of Chicago Press,. Chicago :. 1986.

Bad guys don't have birthdays :
ISBN: 0226644960. OCLC Number:

University of Chicago Press,. Chicago :. ©1988.

Publisher's description: 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.

The boy who would be a helicopter /
ISBN: 0674080319. OCLC Number:

Harvard University Press,. Cambridge, Mass. :. 1990.

Documents a child's journey from isolation to connection and safety in a preschool classroom.

You can't say you can't play /
ISBN: 0674965906. OCLC Number:

Harvard University Press,. Cambridge, Mass. :. 1992.

Publisher's description: 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 :
ISBN: 0674505867. OCLC Number:

Harvard University Press,. Cambridge, Mass. :. 1995.

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.

The girl with the brown crayon /
ISBN: 0674354427. OCLC Number:

Harvard University Press,. Cambridge, Mass. :. 1997.

Once again Vivian Paley takes us into the inquiring minds and 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 that's dancing is me," Reeny announces as her crayoned figures.

Kindness of children.
ISBN: 067400390X. OCLC Number:

Harvard Univ Press,. Cambridge :. 2000.

In Mrs. Tully's room :
ISBN: 0674011163. OCLC Number:

Harvard University Press,. Cambridge, Mass. :. 2001.

"Watching two-year-old Alex and his toddler classmates act out his one-word "Mama" story, and hearing their teacher muse, "Seems like the best reason to tell a story, when you are two, is to keep Mama in mind, ' Vivian Paley found herself drawn into a remarkable childcare center. In Mrs. Tully's Room tells the story of the comforting and compelling community created by the center's gifted director." "In joining Paley on her many visits to this extraordinary center, readers see how childcare providers combine teaching ability and emotional responsiveness to help even the smallest children learn words, concepts, stories, and the management of their emotions. Mrs. Tully's memories of her own childhood enrich her ability to understand her two-, three-, four-, and five-year-olds and to draw them into the world of expressive storytelling."--Jacket.

A child's work :
ISBN: 0226644898. OCLC Number:

University of Chicago Press,. Chicago :. 2004.

"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."--Jacket.


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

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (No)