Volume 4, Number 2
Richard Louv and Cheryl Charles research and write about play in natural settings. Louv, a journalist and recent visiting professor at Clemson University, is the author of eight books including the best-selling Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (2005) and The Nature Principle (2011). His regular column appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune for more than twenty years. He has also written for the New York Times and Times of London and for Outside and Parents magazines. He has served on the editorial advisory board of Parents and received the Audubon Medal in 2008. Cheryl Charles is a conservationist and K–12 environmental-education specialist who helped launch the Leave No Child Inside initiative with Louv in 2006. A past member of the board of John Denver’s Windstar Foundation, Charles is cofounder and past CEO of the Windstar Land Conservancy and cofounder and CEO of the nonprofit Children and Nature Network. In this interview, Louv and Charles discuss the decline in outdoor play and the implications of this loss of familiarity with the natural world. They identify alarming physical, social, and psychological costs of alienation from nature but hold out hope that play will help reconnect children and families with their natural surroundings. Key words: Benefits of nature play; Children and Nature Network; nature-deficit disorder; nature play
For most children in North America, Halloween is one of the most exciting holidays of the year. But some critics insist that its emphasis on ready-made costumes, store-bought candy, and trick-or-treating seduces children into cultural passivity and socializes them to mindless consumption. These critics argue that trick-or-treating was an inherited tradition, invented, initiated, or imposed by adults to control undesirable Halloween mischief. This article turns to newspaper accounts from the 1930s through the1950s to suggest that these beliefs and conclusions about trick-or-treating are false and that, in fact, children originated trick-or-treating and shaped it to their own ends. In her view of trick-or-treating as part of the development of children’s culture in twentieth-century America, the author presents the role of children in initiating their own forms of play and contesting and negotiating such play with adults, all of which suggests a more complex understanding of Halloween and trick-or-treating in the contemporary context. Key words: beginning rituals; children as consumers; gangsters; Halloween; Halloween rituals; Halloween sadism; pranking; trick-or-treating
Seeking to understand play as part of a more general theory of human relationships, the author defines play as one of four fundamental categories of behavior, the others being work, ritual, and communitas. He discusses how each of these behaviors is organized as a “pathway” that offers distinctive opportunities for experiencing life and for discovering “self-locations,” specifically privilege, subordination, engagement, and marginality. These pathways and self-locations are understood to be key elements in the formation of experience. Associating play, ritual, work, and communitas with either ascending (self-directed) meaning or descending (other-directed) meaning, he describes their related “emotion sequences,” essentially chains of emotions that lead from feelings of anticipation to those addressing occurrences in the present to remembrances. For example, work leads from self-confidence to pride; play, from curiosity to gratitude; communitas, from hope to blessedness; and ritual, from faith to reverence. Each of the four pathways is a profoundly important, but also a limited format for action and experience. Key words: ascending and descending meaning; communitas; engagement; marginality; modes of self-location; patterns of behavior; play; privilege; ritual; subordination; work
A growing body of research has focused on the role of play in young children’s literacy development and early-literacy learning. In reviewing this research, the authors define the play-literacy nexus as that space where play, language, and emerging literacy behaviors converge and interact. They describe findings about the play-literacy nexus (which they call knowledge of the nexus) and what these findings mean for children, their parents, and their teachers in literacy development and early-literacy learning (which they dub knowledge in the nexus). They define play and literacy in terms of this current knowledge; they review the major theoretical frameworks that give rise to play-literacy hypotheses and relationships; and they discuss topics that connect play and literacy, including literacy-enriched play environments, play’s role in narrative development, and how play supports cognitive-linguistic abilities and skills that help children learn to read. They argue that knowledge of the play-literacy nexus, i.e. research, should determine the nature of the knowledge used in the play-literacy nexus within the larger context of early-childhood education, and they illustrate their argument with several evidence-based techniques for classroom practice, including literacy-enriched play environment design, topic- and theme-related dramatic play, and play planning. Key words: early-childhood education; early literacy; literacy-enriched play environments; play-literacy nexus; play planning; theme-related dramatic play
Twentieth-century Russian literary critic and semiotician Mikhail Bakhtin developed an epistemology that linked carnival, authority, and laughter. Drawing on his work, the author investigates hidden parent-child interactions and children’s discourse in early-childhood play. She argues that Bakhtin’s ideas of carnival and its discourses apply to young children’s pretend play. Early-childhood play, she holds, bridges the gap between authoritative and internally persuasive discourse, much as does the mockery of hierarchical order during the carnival festivals described by Bakhtin. The author uses examples from her study of culturally diverse three- and four-year-old preschoolers to illustrate the similarities between Bakhtin’s carnival and pretend play. She discusses such play in the context of children exploring their identities and negotiating their relationships with the adult world. She suggests that early-childhood educators could benefit by viewing play from a child’s perspective, as something not unlike carnival, rather than by forcing play always to fit more traditional developmental models. Key words: carnival; double-voiced discourse; dramatic play; grotesque realism; humor; Mikhail Bakhtin; pretend play; profanity; role reversal
Games and game-like dynamics continually increase the range of our digitally mediated experience. They make significant demands on our understanding of the wide-ranging, various subjects they affect, including those of work, entertainment media, and journalism. Authors Bogost, Ferrari, and Schweizer bring a powerful perspective on games and what they can do to the last of these. They provide a provocative framework for how we should think of (and design) games for a field whose challenges in a networked age have been well publicized.
This well-written and beautifully produced research report presents six, staffed open-access play services in England. “Open access,” as it is generally used in the United Kingdom, refers to staffed play provision where children come and go as they please. While not uncommon, it has become more difficult to offer this service to children in recent years due to changes in legislation. People Make Play records the views and experiences of the children, parents, and staff involved, and it details how open-access provision operates from these different perspectives. Those of us in playwork so frequently assume such details are self-evident that we do not record them. Yet, these details often distinguish the unique nature of playwork. The strength of this report, therefore, lies in its optimistic reporting of an endangered form of play provision, and it will be of particular interest to those outside the playwork field for whom open access can still be something of a curiosity.
There have been some marvelous scholarly books on the history of games (conventional and digital) and on the psychology of play, but Mary Flanagan stakes out new ground by bringing an artist’s perspective to Critical Play: Radical Games. This ambitious book is a deep investigation of radical games—games designed not strictly for entertainment but “for artistic, political, and social critique or intervention” (p. 2). Flanagan is an accomplished radical-game artist, but this book is not about her work. Instead, this book investigates how the history of interactions between play, art, games, culture, and politics have set the stage for today’s radical games. In doing so, it covers a lot of ground (flipping through the notes, bibliography, and index is an education in itself ). Want a history of playfully subversive art movements? A critical analysis of Western doll play and board games? A manifesto for radical-game design with practical methods advice? Flanagan deftly integrates these topics and more in a progression from definitions to history to analysis to prescription.
Some years ago, my wife and I were hiking along the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in central Colorado when a group of ravens suddenly appeared in front of us and began surfing the updrafts on the canyon walls. We watched them for a half hour as they swooped and whooped in the air currents like the kayakers at the white-water play spot in the river a few miles from my house. I could think of no explanation for the birds’ behavior other than sheer joy. In The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure, Jonathan Balcombe combines anecdotes of similar events, recent discoveries in animal behavior, and stunning photographs to make the case that other species experience pleasure. The result is both intellectually and aesthetically satisfying.
In my work, I frequently observe teachers in the classroom. Some of what I have noticed echoes what I have heard at conferences and workshops: Teachers are feeling pressured by new early learning standards and rising expectations for school readiness; They are unsure of how play fits into these demands; Officials have cut time devoted to play to create more time for early math and literacy activities; Teachers often use the time children are playing to catch up on paperwork or set up the next activities; Although it may be frustrating to see teachers take a hands-off approach to play, they may not always understand what is expected of them during that time; And, it is difficult to learn how to scaffold play skills. Addressing these issues in Developmentally Appropriate Play, Gaye Gronlund presents strategies that teach teachers the skills to help children thrive within the context of play experiences.
Baby-sitters performed the crucial function of enabling ordinary, middle-class parents to participate in the emerging leisure economy of the mid-twentieth century. With a baby-sitter at home, adults were free to play. Yet, as the cover of Baby-sitter: An American History suggests by reproducing Norman Rockwell’s famous 1947 illustration for the Saturday Evening Post (called Babysitter with Screaming Infant), the baby-sitter had many disputed meanings—some factual, some fictional, and some mythical.
Lynn E. Cohen is Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education and Literacy at Long Island University. Her research interests include young children’s language development, literacy learning, and early-childhood environments. Cohen founded the Play, Policy, and Practice Interest Forum of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and is a member of the executive committee of The Association for the Study of Play, and a coeditor of Play: A Polyphony of Research, Theories, and Issues, volume twelve of TASP’s Pay & Culture Studies series. She has contributed to numerous publications, including Early Childhood Education Journal, Early Childhood Today, Educational Studies, and Reading Horizons Journal.
Thomas S. Henricks is Distinguished University Professor at Elon University. He established the sociology major and developed the Faculty Resource Center at Elon and served as dean of the social sciences department and associate dean of the university. His research interests include social theory, modernization and change, popular culture, social stratification, race and ethnic relations, and particularly play and sport. His publications include Disputed Pleasures: Sport and Society in Preindustrial England; Play Reconsidered: Sociological Perspectives on Human Expression; and Selves, Societies, and Emotions: Understanding the Pathways of Experience (2012).
Samira Kawash is Professor Emerita in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of Dislocating the Color Line: Identity, Hybridity, and Singularity in African-American Narrative and has contributed articles to the Journal of American Culture, Public Culture, PAJ, and other journals. She has also contributed chapters to Frantz Fanon: Critical Perspectives; The New Economic Criticism: Studies at the Intersection of Literature and Economics; and Passing and the Fictions of Identity. She is working currently on a book about the cultural history of candy in twentieth-century America.
Kathleen Roskos is Professor of Education at John Carroll University and has served as director of the Ohio Literacy Initiative at the Ohio Department of Education. She is coeditor of Play and Literacy in Early Childhood: Research from Multiple Perspectives and coauthor of Designing Professional Development in Literacy: A Framework for Effective Instruction (Solving Problems in the Teaching of Literacy) and Nurturing Knowledge: Building a Foundation for School Success by Linking Early Literacy to Math, Science, Art, and Social Studies. She has also contributed chapters to numerous books and articles to the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Reading Research and Instruction, Language Arts, and Young Children. James F. Christie is Professor of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. He has published scores of articles and book chapters and is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than fifteen books, including Helping Young Children Learn Language and Literacy: Birth through Kindergarten; Teaching Language and Literacy: Preschool through the Elementary Grades; Building a Foundation for Preschool Literacy: Effective Instruction for Children’s Reading and Writing Development; and Play and Early Childhood Development. Christie has presented papers internationally and served in various editorial capacities for a number of scholarly journals, including Reading Research Quarterly.