Teachers College Press 

Playing for Keeps
Life and Learning on a Public School Playground

Deborah Meier, Brenda S. Engel, and Beth Taylor
Pub Date: June 2010, 144 pages

Paperback: $24.95, ISBN: 0807750956
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• Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2011

“Those of us who've been close to Mission Hill will rejoice to see the vision of a humane and happy school reaching a wide audience. We need this book more than ever—bursting, as it is, with the words of children and with their sense of mystery, spontaneity, and sheer jubilation. This is a great antidote to the poison of drill-and-grill austerity imposed upon our children by the technocrats of corporate accountability.”
Jonathan Kozol, author of Letters to a Young Teacher and Shame of the Nation

Playing for Keeps surrounds us with the authentic and urgent language of make-believe as heard on a Boston public school playground. Fortunately, the three author-teachers are there to lead us expertly between children’s play and the work of school. It is an adventure well worth taking, for teachers, parents, and administrators.”
Vivian Gussin Paley, author of The Boy on the Beach: Building Community Through Play

“Three experienced and wise educators have written a book that reveals for us the essence of childhood. In the barren days of racing to the top, this engaging book reminds us of what education could so easily be.”
Eleanor Duckworth, Harvard University, author of The Having of Wonderful Ideas and other Essays on Teaching and Learning, Third Edition

Why is play important in the lives of children? What crucial aspects of learning are being neglected in the current near-elimination of recess time in public schools?Playing for Keeps, co-authored by the well-known writer and educational leader Deborah Meier, and two colleagues with equally long experience in schools, explores these questions. Based on close observations on a public school playground, the book shows children at play in a relatively natural, unstructured environment. The reader is virtually there, seeing, listening in, able to appreciate the children’s curiosity, humor, intelligence, and inventiveness. Readers will recognize the children’s voices and ways of thinking, and perhaps be reminded of their own childhood, their own children, or the children they teach. The authors comment on the observations, adding to the reader’s own perceptions. This lively, engaging book makes a strong case for the importance of free exploration, wonder, imagination, and play to the learning and growth of children. It should contribute significantly to the understanding of all those concerned, professionally or personally, with the welfare of our school-age population.

Deborah Meier has spent almost five decades working in public education as a teacher, writer, and public advocate. She is currently a Senior Scholar in the faculty of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. Brenda S. Engel has taught elementary school art and was on the faculty of Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Beth Taylor has taught in preschool through college, including in teacher training, program evaluation, early childhood education, and teaching at the Mission Hill School in Boston.

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