MacArthur Fellows Program

Vivian Gussin Paley

Educator and Writer | Class of 1989

Educator and Writer
Chicago, Illinois
60 at time of award
July 26, 2019
Area of Focus
Education and Training
Published August 1, 1989

About Vivian's Work

Vivian Gussin Paley writes about children’s lives in the classroom and lectures to teachers and students all over the world.

She was a kindergarten and nursery school teacher for thirty-seven years, mainly at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  Paley has developed the technique of “storytelling” which involves children telling stories and acting them out with their classmates.  Her technique is being adapted nationally, and has influenced reform in early-childhood education.  Her books examine the function of fantasy in a child’s world and reappraise the meaning of education.


Paley is the author of many books, including White Teacher (1979), Wally’s Stories (1981), Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner (1984), Mollie is Three: Growing Up in School (1986), Bad Guys Don’t Have Birthdays: Fantasy Play at Four (1988), The Boy Who Would be a Helicopter (1990), You Can’t Say You Can’t Play (1992), Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher’s Story (1995), The Girl with the Brown Crayon: A Literary Tale (1997), The Kindness of Children (1999), In Mrs. Tully’s Room (2001), and A Child’s Work (2004}.

Paley received a B.Phil. (1947) from the University of Chicago, a B.A. (1950) from Tulane University, and an M.A. (1962) from Hofstra University.

Last updated January 1, 2005

Select News Coverage of Vivian Gussin Paley
August 1, 2019
"Vivian Paley, Educator Who Promoted Storytelling, Dies at 90"
The New York Times
Vivian Gussin Paley , 1989 MacArthur Fellow
May 26, 2015
"The Importance of Play as a Learning Tool"
The New York Times
Vivian Gussin Paley , 1989 MacArthur Fellow
March 12, 2010
"What If You Can't Say You Can't Play?"
Vivian Gussin Paley , 1989 MacArthur Fellow
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