You Can’t Say You Can’t Play by Vivian Gussin Paley explores inclusion and how story-telling and role playing in the classroom can encourage learning and positive social change. It is a reminder of how powerful observing, asking the right questions, and listening to the children we care for can be in our effort to create a space that is inviting for all. The author engages with each grade, Kindergarten through Grade 6 to discuss how they feel about the new rule and to wonder together about how to make it work.
What I enjoyed most about this book is that it reinforces that the classroom belongs to all of us. We all want to be accepted and participate in a way that is meaningful and comfortable for us. The book highlights the importance of modeling what we want to see more of. It approaches belonging by supporting change in the attitudes of the group to be more accepting instead of focusing on change in one or a few children. Paley reflects on the fact that all the children remember a time when someone wouldn’t let them play and reminds herself of this when questioning the implementation of the rule.
This book offers encouragement to question why we do things the way we do. It provides motivation to see the potential in challenging our habits with new ways that have the potential to bring about positive changes in our classrooms. Paley uses children’s stories as a tool to share different perspectives and social understanding offering a way for children to explain how they feel.