To be honest, I was expecting something different. I thought the focus of this book was on the importance of play in early childhood education. There are certainly pieces of that here, but Brown’s central thesis is how much we all need to play, for its own sake, for our development as learners and human beings, for our relationships, and for the good of our economy.
He was, mostly, preaching to the choir. I don’t understand those who argue against play. If there are people out there defending (either philosophically or – foolishly – in the name of dealing with NCLB) more formal instruction for young children, I haven’t met them and I haven’t been reading their books. If there are people who dismiss play and say, “They aren’t learning anything,” well, those people just aren’t paying attention. Maybe you can’t quantify what they are learning and it probably won’t help them pass a standardized test, but if those two things are your priorities, you are sunk before you’ve even begun.
Those who dismiss teachers who promote play as having easy jobs are, again, not paying attention. Try spending a day in a play-based classroom. Try spending an hour.
The book left me with two questions that I’m sure Brown could address, but just chose not to here. Lisa Delpit, in her book of the same name, made me conscious of the choices we, as educators, make about other people’s children. I would have liked to have read about a study of how play served people of color. (There is a great anecdotal one about Nate Jones’ work in a prison.)
Also, as I mentioned above, Brown wants adults to play, even at work. He cites numerous benefits of such play – morale, creativity, etc. – but doesn’t really get into how to combat the obsession with productivity. Play, some would say, is not efficient. I need to grade papers. I play on my own time, with my own people. How should leaders attempt to change that culture?
Still, this is a great read for educators and all of those who are a bit too busy in their lives. I recently took a class on pen turning, and this book has inspired me to pursue more opportunities in that vein.