Book Club Discussion Starters: A Child’s Work

Today’s the day! Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, a group of Storytime Undergrounders will meet online for a live Google+ Hangout to discuss the first Storytime Underground Book Club pick, Vivian Gussin Paley’s A Child’s Work.

In advance of the live discussion tonight, we want to post some discussion starters for those of you who want to participate in asynchronous discussion. Feel free to chime in in the comments or on Facebook. This weekend, we’ll post a follow-up to the live discussion to keep the discussion going even further. We’re excited to hear what you have to say and to learn from all your brilliant reflections.

And now, some discussion starters:

  1. Paley mentions that some parents and caregivers consider how children play as too serious or risky, with them “playing” through controversial issues. Yet children live in a world with loud public conversations about guns, death, violence. By taking away play, are we taking away coping skills?
  2. Says Paley: “If readiness for school has meaning, it is to be found first in the children’s flow of ideas, their own and those of their peers, families, teachers, books, and television, from play into story and back into more play.” How does this idea fit with how ECRR defines readiness?
  3. Paley seems to argue that play is the physical manifestation of storytelling. How does that fit in a library setting where storytelling is what we do? How does it tie in with early literacy goals?
  4. Paley shares lots of anecdotes about play in early childhood settings as the basis of her arguments. Is this a step we need to be taking, bringing “the anecdotal evidence of [our] study to [our] colleagues”? Sharing our experiences and our reflections of them with the larger profession? How do we do that?

Please feel free to join the conversation even if you haven’t gotten to read Paley’s book!

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About Amy Koester

I'm a youth services librarian with a penchant for exciting ideas and engaging programs. It's a sure bet that if you talk to me about STEAM, whimsy, and trying new things, we'll be best friends forever.

Posted on September 5, 2013, in Book Club. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. 1. Not to mention SEEING ACTUAL guns, death, violence. For more on this topic, you could read Playing to Learn: The Role of Play in the Early Years by Sandra Smidt–interesting because she purposefully doesn’t include a “joyful” aspect in her definition of play and she definitely covers the “hard” types of processing play Paley references here. A related question for me is how much is the library an appropriate place for this type of play, given that as librarians we don’t know our kids or hold responsibility to families in the same way as ECE teachers do and perhaps don’t know how to help or respond to kids who need to engage in this.
    2. I wonder if it’s similar to the idea that “just” reading aloud to kids is the most effective way to prepare them to learn to read. Meaning, all the early literacy skills get “taught” or “caught” in an implicit way simply through exposure to thousands of stories. Would Paley say that all the social-emotional-cogintive school readiness skills are developed through narrative play? (I haven’t finished the book yet!)
    3. I love that libraries are making space for more toys. If libraries are places for learning, then for children they must be places for play. There are so many ways we can encourage and promote storytelling through our spaces and materials.
    4. I must admit I was getting a little frustrated with all the anecdotes–literal pragmatic me wanted more data on play as it relates to child development (but that’s another book so it’s not really fair of me). On the one hand, data is what drives grants and makes policy makers take notice–on the other, stories are how we change hearts and minds and bring community stakeholders to the insight that libraries are vital, whether they personally use them or not. Data is hard to catch, but stories aren’t effective unless we get them heard by the right people.

  2. Thanks for suggesting this book! I hadn’t heard of it or the author, but found it really interesting and inspiring, both as a librarian and as a parent to a two-year-old.
    To address your last discussion prompt first, the one thing that bothered me about the book was that it was all anecdotes. I don’t think that made her points ring any less true, but I agree with what Melissa said above. You need a mix of both data and anecdotes to get people on board and to make the information useable.
    As far as how libraries fit in with imaginative play, I think they are probably the inspiration for a lot of it. I also think they can be a great place to encourage fantasy play. Our local library, where I take my daughter for storytime, brings out big bins of toys and costumes and instruments at the end of the reading & singing portion of the program and has a stay & play. What better way to encourage kids to engage with the stories they are hearing (and reading) than to provide them with a space to play? I think early literacy is all about getting kids to engage and enjoy literature and stories and imaginative play is a big part of how they do that. If they love stories they’ll want to read more and write more.
    I know it can be hard to add one more thing to what we do as librarians, but kids are losing places they can play. Like Paley pointed out many times, academics have crept into younger and younger classrooms. To the detriment of play. Libraries could help provide the place to play, especially if they’re already providing the fodder. I know it isn’t always possible, but I think it could be well worth the effort.
    In terms of difficult topics that get worked through in play, I think taking away play risks taking away an important way for kids to process and cope with difficult topics. I agree with Melissa that the library may not be the best venue for that kind of play though. Especially since we can’t monitor the kids and step in to help them process in the same way a teacher might. On the other hand, in this time of hovering, helicoptering parents it isn’t always a bad thing to let kids work through things on their own. I think kids can surprise you with their ability to understand and cope with difficult situations if given time and space.
    Those are my thoughts. I’m curious to hear what other people think.

  1. Pingback: Well, that was failure. | Storytime Underground

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