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You Can't Say You Can't Play: ,

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  430 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Who of us can remember the pain and humiliation of being rejected by our classmates? We remember the uncertainty of separating from our home and entering school as strangers, and more than the relief of making friends, we recall the cruel moments of our own isolation as well as those children we knew were destined to remain strangers.
Hardcover, 134 pages
Published September 10th 1992 by Harvard University Press (first published 1992)
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Ms. Yes! This book is for teachers of children (like me) who want to help prevent bullying in their classrooms. There are plenty of examples from the…moreYes! This book is for teachers of children (like me) who want to help prevent bullying in their classrooms. There are plenty of examples from the author's own first grade classroom. (less)
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(showing 1-30 of 921)
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Oct 09, 2011 Jill rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Primary teachers
Recommended to Jill by: Best Friends, Worst Enemies
I chose to read this book after reading part of Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. This book was about a teacher at the University of Chicago lab school who taught Kindergarten and noticed that specific children were being rejected during playtime.

Although this book is not new by any means (it was written in 1993), I am facing the same issues that this author did in her Kindergarten classroom. Every day, one of my students comes up to me and says, "Susie doe
Thurston Hunger
"Can't say, can't play" is sort of a mantra at our kids school and according to the boys' current 1st grade teacher, this is where the movement began.

Wow, I just checked and according to the edition I have, the initial copyright on this is just 1992? I would have thought this was more of a late 60's or early 70's by-product. It has an aura of the hippie hangover (not at all a bad thing in my world necessarily...).

Here's an excerpt taken from towards the end...

"That being the case, we have our wo
You Can't Say You Can't Play tells the story of Paley's decision to make these six words the rule in her Kindergarten classroom. It's a short book, and it would be about half as long if one excised the italicized interludes relaying a story she wrote for her students and used to catalyze discussion about the "You can't say you can't play" rule. I find these italic sections dull and, to be honest, slightly weird, but Paley is incredibly sensitive and her observations have me completely in thrall. ...more
"This American Life" included a segment on Paley's work for the Cruelty of Children episode (which was excellent, by the way), and while I enjoyed that piece, this book didn't do much for me. I think the central idea is interesting, but there were too many distractions...

First, it's written in present tense. I'm not sure what she was trying to achieve with that, but present tense narratives even make me crabby when I'm reading fiction. This is nonfiction and supposedly relaying a study of sorts
Mira Solomon
While I totally agree that the issue of exclusion in classrooms must be tackled by teachers, I found this book to be an awful read. I really did not enjoy the author's style of writing and generally found it rather over-the-top. Also, the whole concept of the book seemed to be arguing a point that most ECE teachers already agree with at this point. I felt that the author/teacher was just too reticent in establishing classroom norms that she knew were necessary. She seemed to alternate between wa ...more
Bllu Catalano
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 re
I'm reading this now for a class. Vivian Paley has been very influential for my practice with children. She writes simply about her daily role in her classrooms and about her responses to the children. Her work is deep and authentic. She has high expectations for herself and the children she works with, and a huge amount of respect. In this book she is dealing with children's rejection of each other in play. It is an action research piece, with Paley trying to uncover the roots of the rejection ...more
Fascinating idea... Paley explores the suggestion of inclusion in this introspective quick read. After years of teaching kindergarten, Paley was frustrated with the exclusion of some children over and over again at play. So she began talking with children about a new idea - 'you can't say you can't play.' Included here are paraphrases of the conversations she had with her kindergarten class and classes of older students in her K-5 building. It's fascinating to hear the children talk about their ...more
I've been interested in kids and social exclusion, and the parts of the book that detail Paley's in-class experiment were fascinating: kids from five to about eleven debate the pros and cons of the new rule.

A large part of her work is done through storytelling, and the parallel narrative with the princess, magpie, dragon, etc., I could have done without.
This book was a nice complement to another Paley book, Bad Guys Don't Have Birthdays. In this one, the consequences of children excluding each other -- the tears, the rejection, the long memory of wrongs -- play center stage. I enjoyed reading about the development of her "You Can't Say You Can't Play" rule and the reactions of older children to the idea. The interspersing of the Magpie story was a bit odd at first, but by the end I could see how the children were using the story to figure out h ...more
Nikka Gaviola
This book illustrated so well that each move we make to try to include everyone has ramifications beyond which we can imagine. I was amazed by how many perceived problems arose from this seemingly simple rule to prevent rejection. I was inspired by how well the rule was adapted despite the children's fears of what might happen to their games and to their established friendships. I loved that the school age children were included in the discussion and planning for the new rule. Primary grades may ...more
I picked this book solely because the author looked like an old boss, though the book is 20+ years old and thus the author is now much older than my boss, so they are not the same person. In the book, kindergarten teacher Paley observes that certain students in her class seem to always be left out of play groups when the children are left to play on their own. Paley has clearly been teaching a while by this time, because she remembers this occurring for many years, going back even to her own sch ...more
It's an interesting question for people who have or especially who work with children. Is it ever OK to say, "You can't play"? Vivian Paley, a renowned kindergarten teacher, found children's rejection and exclusion was causing significant unhappiness in her classroom, to the point, she believed, of affecting some children's ability to focus and learn. This book follows her proposal of, and eventual implementation of, a new class rule: You can't say you can't play. Paley is an expert on using sto ...more
"You Can't Say You Can't Play" is an intriguing concept. Parts of this book were also intriguing (I'm going to be looking for more anthropological studies of classrooms) [anthro people, please don't hit me - I know she's not really an anthropologist but some of this reminds me of anthro for the lay person]. 50% of it was fairy tale, and not a particular well-written one at that. I know why she included it (it's basically the kindergarten "text" for how to deal with the concepts that go along wit ...more
Joseph Mccaleb
Paley weaves several threads together in this book: a story she made up to guide her kindergarten children toward the inclusive ethic indicated in the title, the trajectory of her children's responses to this radical norm, and the commentary that goes with teacher's inquiry into her practice. I like the book for all these purposes and will use it with language arts teachers and with teachers doing action research projects. In terms of the capacity of narrative to scaffold advances in civilizatio ...more
This rule of "You Can't Say You Can't Play" set in place (after much discussion) by the author in her kindergarten class shows how unfounded prejudices start very early in life. The only way to overcome such pointless opinions is to get to know the people you are shutting out. This is a book required by my freshman college course Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education for the students looking to teach in elementary schools. The day I bought it, about two weeks before the semester star ...more
Sarah B.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
April West
Aug 27, 2007 April West rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents, teachers
I was amazed that I was able to read this book in one night; often I read this sort of thing because I think I should or that it will be good for me and my kiddo. This was a pleasure to read, very sensitively written and insightful. Here is the kindergarten teacher I want my kid to have! The only complaint I had about the book is not really about the book after all... the book is written by a teacher, about school children, and focuses totally on exclusionary play at school. As a parent, I wish ...more
I love the concept and think it would be something I would want in my classroom if I was a kindergarten or first grade teacher but I did not think it was well written. It was also not full of as much information as I would have liked or even thought would be in a book like this.
Thanks, This American Life iPhone app - I heard this author speak on a show about kids' cruelty toward other kids. Her very simple experiment done over one year in her Kindergarten class is the subject of this book. Her discoveries are sad and encouraging at the same time.

I skipped through the fairy tale the author made up to demonstrate her ideas to her students, but her commentary on the reaction of her students to her new rule was fascinating. If only every teacher who works with young childr
Lately I've been reminded almost daily, from adults and kids alike, that we really do learn how to make our way through the world at a very young. We learn patterns of behavior that stick with us forever, or take incredible undoing to change as adults. I think teachers should re-read this book every fall. We have tremendous jobs.

Plus I like this paragraph:
The classroom seems all tumult and tears this year. My disapproval floats above us like a dark cloud, raining on one child after another, but
Katrina A.
This book is a must-read for any teacher. Vivian Gussin Paley takes us on her journey with her children, as they explore this question and the idea of inclusion in kindergarten and elementary school.
Shannon D'Arpino
Great concept! If only we could get more teachers on board. I thought the book was an interesting story, and was not an actual "studied implementation" with data. So, I am hoping that by allowing kids to understand that we are all different and special, it will help them to be more inclusive in their lives beyond primary school.
My husband heard about this book on NPR and we’d had a spirited debate about the merits of not allowing children to exclude other children from play. He got me the book for Christmas so we could, no doubt, continue the debate. Paley is both a story teller and a former kindergarten teacher, and she combined both of those professions to retell the story of when she instituted a new rule in her kindergarten class.

For a complete review
Vivian Paley weaves together three narratives into a thoughtful exploration of the child mind. She thinks about the roots of rejection, challenges assumptions, and sifts through the complex issues. Everyone makes a journey in this book - the children, the imaginary characters, and Vivian Paley herself.

This book is a work of art. It brought me to tears in a number of places just because it is beautiful. I was deeply impressed by the thought processes of the author and how carefully she recorded
Don't quite know how to describe this book, but I sure wish I had Vivian Paley for my kindergarten teacher. She explores social rejection among young children, and how we might be able to eliminate it and include everyone. It's a very important topic and the book is a fascinating account of the attempt and discussion in her own school, but I need to know how this experiment turned out long term. Honestly, I may have missed some of the message here because of the way the Paley wove in a fictional ...more
This is a quick read. Vivian is describing her process with her kindergarten class of adding the rule. You can't say, "you can't play." While I am usually more of a straight delivery sort of person, her full weave of thought process, fantasy, classroom reality and her own personal reality within the framework reminds me of my Aunt who also teaches. The combined, intertwined fabric lifts the entire idea up like a blanket about to be laid over a freshly made bed and settles satisfactorily. I have ...more
Roderic Rinehart
An awful style of writing coupled with an overarching point that I can't agree with. I am a teacher, and consider it my job and responsibility to ensure that students are not bullied or ridiculed, but it is NOT my job to insert myself into the unstructured play and demand that so-and-so be included in an activity during recess. In my opinion, we prevent physical harm and deal with situations of abuse and bullying, but it is up to each child to carve out his or her own identity and deal with the ...more
Jamie Diemidio
Excellent and highly recommend.
Erica K
I first learned about this book when Ira Glass interviewed the author for a "This American Life" broadcast titled "The Cruelty of Children" and the message intrigued me. The book is not only beautifully written, but it conveys a message all would benefit from hearing, not just those select few who work with children. Social inclusion/exclusion is a part of human nature, but we can control it, and we should all feel a moral obligation to use this capacity for good. Vivian Paley shows us just how ...more
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