Paley, Vivian Gussin 1929-

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PALEY, Vivian Gussin 1929-

PERSONAL: Born January 25, 1929, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Harry A. (a physician) and Yetta (Meisel) Gussin; married Irving Paley (in public relations), June 20, 1948; children: David Robert. Education: University of Chicago, B.A., 1947; Tulane University, B.A., 1950; Hofstra University, M.A., 1962. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES: Home—5422 South Blackstone, Chicago, IL 60615-5407; 4913 Cave Point Drive, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235-8233.

CAREER: Teacher in New Orleans, LA, 1952-56, and Great Neck, NY, 1963-70; University of Chicago, Chicago, teacher at Laboratory School, 1971-95.

AWARDS, HONORS: Erikson Institute Award, 1987, for service to children; MacArthur Foundation fellowship, 1989; The Girl with the Brown Crayon was given the annual Virginia and Warren Stone Prize, Harvard University Press, 1997, for outstanding book about education and society; Lifetime Achievement American Book Award, from Before Columbus Foundation, 1998; The Girl with the Brown Crayon earned the NCTE David H. Russell Award, 1999, for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English; the John Dewey Society's Outstanding Achievement Award for the year 2000.


White Teacher, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1979.

Wally's Stories: Conversations in the Kindergarten, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.

Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

Mollie Is Three: Growing up in School, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.

Bad Guys Don't Have Birthdays: Fantasy Play at Four, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1988.

The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1990.

You Can't Say You Can't Play, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.

Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher's Story, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.

The Girl with the Brown Crayon, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.

The Kindness of Children, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

In Mrs. Tully's Room: A Childcare Portrait, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Also wrote introduction to Under Deadman's Skin: Discovering the Meaning of Children's Violent Play, by Jane Katch, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2001.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Endangered Occupation: A Defense of Fantasy Play.

SIDELIGHTS: In her books about the behavior and thought of preschoolers, "which should be required reading wherever children are growing," Vivian Gussin Paley "does not presume to understand pre-school children, or to theorize," observed Penelope Leach in the New York Times Book Review. "Her strength lies equally in knowing that she does not know and in trying to learn," explained the critic, adding that in Mollie Is Three: Growing up in School, Paley "avoids the arrogance of adult to small child; of teacher to student; of writer to reader." By relating anecdotes from her kindergarten classroom at the University of Chicago's Laboratory School, Paley's "revealing, often humorous" works say "less about teaching than. . .about the emergence of creativity, sex roles and self-confidence," commented Los Angeles Times Book Review writer Alex Raksin. Wally's Stories: Conversations in the Kindergarten, for example, is "a book exceptionally modest in manner and unusually substantial in matter," stated D. J. Enright in the Times Literary Supplement; in her detailing of the stories children invent, "Paley has given a vivid and credible picture of how five-year-olds think. An entertaining picture, too," Enright concluded, "and a strangely inspiriting one."

Paley once told CA: "I am a kindergarten teacher who writes about life in the classroom, my own and other people's.

"My point of view is that of the classroom teacher, not often heard because few classroom teachers write books or articles. It is subjective and personal. The teacher observes the child in ways that are quite different from the psychologist and academic researcher, who watch and measure human behavior in the classroom. The teacher watches, becomes involved in, and practices human behavior in the classroom.

"As a writer I am primarily interested in the attitudes and beliefs of teacher and child. This hides current influences and often supersedes the formal curriculum but is seldom examined or discussed openly.

"When I began writing White Teacher, I thought I knew certain children best because our backgrounds were similar. I have since discovered that all the children have more in common with one another than any one of them has with me. The major source of incongruity is between their thinking and mine."

The Girl with the Brown Crayon features a classroom of kindergarteners learning from the books of Leo Lionni. A Publishers Weekly reviewer reflected, when Paley "tries to fit lessons about adult biases into this paradigm . . . they tend to be strained." The reviewer added, however, that in the book, Paley creates a classroom that any parent or teacher would envy. Hazel Rochman of Booklist observed that this story demonstrates the value of learning that is "connected, uninterrupted, and interactive."

The Kindness of Children is filled with stories of kids demonstrating their natural inclination towards being kind. Samuel T. Huang of the Library Journal wrote, "one story leads to another, gently bringing together the moral life of the very young and the very old." There is one particular child who helps clarify the book's message. Teddy is a severely disabled boy, and his classmates "instinctively include Teddy . . . in their play," observed Stefanie Weiss in National Education Association Today. Paley told an interviewer at Newsweek, "I believe children are always on the edge of committing an act of kindness, always ready to go in that direction."

In Mrs. Tully's Room is "a must-read for all thinking parents and teachers," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor. In it, the reviewer added, Paley emphasizes that school should be less about mastering curricula and more about how to "learn to come together and build a community."

Paley told CA: "Mrs. Tully, the hero of In Mrs. Tully's Room, puts it this way, 'That's what we need to go after in school, the seeing and the listening to each other . . . the beginning of an us. A real community.'"



Booklist, February 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of The Girl with the Brown Crayon, p. 98.

Library Journal, March 15, 1999, Samuel T. Huang, review of The Kindness of Children, p. 88.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 17, 1986; May 1, 1988.

National Education Association of the United States, September 1999, Stefanie Weiss, review of The Kindness of Children, p. 44.

New Republic, May 26, 1979.

Newsweek, March 22, 1999, review of The Kindness of Children, p. 78.

New York Times Book Review, July 6, 1986; April 3, 1988.

Publishers Weekly, February 17, 1997, review of The Girl with the Brown Crayon, p.202; September 17, 2001, review of In Mrs. Tully's Room.

Times Literary Supplement, July 10, 1981.


Harvard University Press, (May 8, 2002) review of In Mrs. Tully's Room: A Childcare Portrait; (July 19, 2002) review of The Kindness of Children.

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Paley, Vivian Gussin 1929-

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