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Friday, January 10, 2014

A Child's Work

I've been thinking a lot about early literacy skills lately, thinking about ways to get the message across that it is important to give young kids opportunities to explore and develop without being squelched by worksheets or flashcards.  I found a reference to Vivian Gussin Paley's book A Child's Work:  The Importance of Fantasy Play several months ago when perusing The Storytime Underground site.  No one in our system owned it, so I had to interloan the copy (Thanks UW River Falls!).  I finally got around to reading it this month.

Paley is a kindergarten and early childhood teacher who makes a passionate argument for the power and importance of free fantasy play in the lives of young children.  She's interested in the development of children as learners and as human beings, and cites examples of children's conversations during play, and their storytelling and acting out of those stories to demonstrate that free, uninhibited play can enhance that development.  Children can make sense of their worlds, sort through philosophical questions, practice ways to be flexible and inclusive with each other, and at the same time develop their symbolic thinking and narrative skills. 

With the demands and expectations of kindergarten, and even pre-kindergarten, increasing, there is less and less time for children to engage in free fantasy play together.  I think it is worth it for librarians to think about how we can support their developmental need for fantasy play in our spaces and programs, and in the way we talk to their parents and caregivers.

What do you think?

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