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You Can't Say You Can't Play Paperback – August 15, 1993

55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this brief, ethereal and tender account of social relations among children, Paley--a kindergarten teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a MacArthur grant recipient and the author of The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter --explores how to keep students from being ignored by their classmates. She describes what happened when she asked students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade to debate the proposition "You Can't Say You Can't Play." Woven throughout Paley's lessons is a parable about loneliness and rejection, which enables readers to share a child's view of the world. What the kids have to say is enchanting and surprisingly wise. For example, should a "boss" determine who plays with whom, or should there be an election? As a sagacious second-grader observes: "See, the bad thing about voting is, if you don't vote for that person she'll see all the people who don't like her. If it's a boss that's only one person doesn't like you so you don't feel so bad.syntax of quote ok "
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This book on early education describes an experiment Paley conducted in her kindergarten classroom. Unhappy with the fact that children too quickly learn to ostracize unwanted classmates, Paley decided to make some changes. She created a new social order by posting a sign saying, "You Can't Say, You Can't Play." She hoped to enforce the new order with the series of stories included in this book, which utilize a group of stock characters, principally Magpie. Paley creates an enticing series of children's stories, but her thesis is problematic. As a text for teachers concerned with the moral life of children, it is neither a substantial nor a substantiated offering, and other authors may offer more help.
-Nancy E. Zuwiyya, Binghamton City Sch. District, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (July 16, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674965906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674965904
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vivian Gussin Paley worked for nearly forty years as a preschool and kinder-garten teacher and is the author of thirteen books about young children, including, most recently, A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Deborah J. Taub on September 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
This small, simple book -- and Paley's simple rule of "You can't say you can't play" -- spoke to me in the deep way that only a few books do. Its relevance goes far beyond the kindergarten classroom, which is the setting of Paley's story. The book speaks profoundly of rejection and its consequences -- and proposes a solution ("you can't say . . ."). If you care about children, if you remember being rejected or left out yourself, read this powerful book.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Aimee Yermish on July 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm a teacher and a mother of a preschooler, and someone who was *seriously* excluded as a child. This book had me in tears. Vivian Paley explores and challenges the commonly accepted practice of letting children exclude each other, showing how socially dominant children use exclusion as a weapon to enforce their dominance and what the negative consequences are for the group as a whole. She proposes a solution that may at first seem idealistic, but is just about building a culture of tolerance and problem-solving, and starting it from the youngest ages. A must-read for any teacher or parent.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Vivian Paley has named it for us. The feelings of rejection and dejection begin at and Before Kindergarten, and begin to harden our children to not being accepted and worse, not being acceptable for who they are. Paleys observation to her own subtle encouragement of this unjust system and her subsequent "rule" of You can't say , you can't play is a real eye opener for Teachers of Young Children, Parents and anyone who wants to knwo the real root of the violence which seems to be creeping into the schools. While life isn't fair, it should be made occasionally just and Vivian Plaey has opened my eyes and the eyes of many other teachers.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Hallberg on February 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book at my daughters' school parent lending library- a school that works hard to implement policies like 'you can't say you can't play' (YCSYCP) and it often works. It certainly works inter-age but problems remain between age-mates. I, too, was a rejected child many times and hate to see any child rejected.
The author teaches kindergarten in a Chicago laboratory school and is troubled by the behaviour of children who are excluded and the children who exclude. She explores the idea of setting 'YCSYCP' as a rule by talking to her student and to older students. The younger children have a lot of questions about how the policy will work, and the older children think that if it becomes a rule early on in schooling, it has a better chance of working. Interwoven with the text is a story that the author uses to illustrate these points to her kindergarten students.
After reading well into the book, I wondered about the author since the writing seemed so.... simple, and was surprised to read that she had been honored by the MacArthur Foundation for her storytelling in the classroom. I tried to read her interwoven story with a more open mind and found it to help a little in understanding the point of the story.
The changes in the classroom as a result of 'YCSYCP' were interesting since the children overall became more inventive and more welcoming, as the author hoped they would. The author was able to define changes she had made in her classroom- like eliminating time-outs- as part and parcel of 'YCSYCP'. I think the simple language worked for these children and could be a good starting place for even older children.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Paley's stunning work helps all of us look at our work with children and youth in a new way. In light of recent events in Colorado, this book has even more significance. Paley provides us with the blueprint to creating school environments where all are valued, all have a place, and where none are rejected. I plan to recommend this book to all of my teacher education students. Thanks, Vivian!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bllu catalano on February 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
You Can't Say You Can't Play , by Vivian Gussin Paley
Paley's short book is a thriller with a mission and constant obstacles. There are factions, heroes and villains, fights, tears and laughter. But--the protagonists are 5 years olds and the setting is a Kindergarten classroom. The unusual cast does not diminish Paley's chase for a grail, shared with the children who accompany her on the quest. Paley is a gifted writer who lifts these little personalities off the page; the children are as fully realized in their thoughts, questions and hopes as any adult. Indeed, their challenges are easily recognizable as ours.

You Can't Say You Can't Play drew me in from the first sentence. We are taken on a journey in a classroom where Miss Gussin Paley, the teacher and narrator, is confronted by a long-standing enemy: Exclusion. We against you. You can't play. There's no more room. No. You're not my friend. When we hear these phrases we cringe because, as Paley repeatedly notes, this strikes to the very core of us. Everyone understands REJECTION, because rejection is one of the deepest wounds a person can feel.

Paley has faced this opponent many times before, but with inadequate results. Long un-satisfied by her previous defense, she watches exclusion rear its unpleasant head again. We watch distressed, alienated children wilt. But Paley realizes she is ready to take the part of hero. Perhaps it is her story of Magpie shared in the book that emboldens her. When she finds another student hiding in the cubbies, she is ready to take action. She enacts a new rule: You Can't Say You Can't Play.

Paley flushes out the conflict with a sensitive eye. She believes that when we--as children--are left to prove ourselves worthy of inclusion, we naturally create exclusion.
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