Book of the week: In defence of proper pretence

14th May 2004 at 01:00
A Child's Work: the importance of fantasy play
Vivian Gussin Paley
University of Chicago Press pound;13.50

This irresistible book is Vivian Gussin Paley at her very best; but with a difference. In the two books written since she retired from full-time kindergarten teaching (The Kindness of Children and In Mrs Tully's Room), she has woven her text from stories other teachers tell her and dramas from other people's classrooms as well as from memories of children from long ago. So the mixture in this book, of times and spaces old and new, is nothing strange; what's different is the cold, critical eye she casts on the shape and purposes of early education today.

Running through the book is a theme of reproach, regret and resistance to the academic, skills-based curriculum she now sees. She has detected a new sentiment, the notion that there is "too much play", that children coming into school have had enough before their kindergarten year (the equivalent of the reception year in England). There is worse to come: "Furthermore, these early yearsnbsp; designated as the optimum time to introduce the shapes and sounds of letters, rather than the shapes and sounds of characters in a story."

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine

Mary Jane Drummond was until recently a lecturer in education at Cambridge University. Readers can order A Child's Work, by Vivian Gussin Paley, for pound;10.50 plus pound;3.50 pamp;p by calling 01243 843262 and quoting "TES"nbsp;nbsp; nbsp;

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