Vivian Gussin Paley
January 25th 1929 – July 26th 2019

Vivian Gussin Paley, world-renowned author, pre-school and kindergarten teacher sadly died on the morning of Friday 26th July 2019. Vivian was 90 years old. She has been my dear friend, mentor and patron to MakeBelieve Arts for the past twenty years. It is to Vivian, and her generosity in sharing her knowledge and experiences with us at MakeBelieve Arts, that we owe all of our success in spreading Helicopter Stories throughout the UK.

During her time as a kindergarten teacher, Vivian Gussin Paley promoted the importance of listening to children’s stories and giving these centre stage in her classroom through an approach she called Storytelling and Story Acting. Vivian has written thirteen books about this approach and has received numerous awards. In 1987 she received the Erikson Institute Award for Service to Children, and she was named as Outstanding Educator by the National Council of Teachers of English in 2004.

What an astonishing invention is this activity we call fantasy play. Are we really willing to let it disappear from our preschools and kindergartens?

Thanks to her curiosity, and the importance she placed on discovering what the world looked like for the children within her care, Vivian Gussin Paley developed an approach that truly values play as the work of childhood.

When I first met Vivian in 1999, I was immediately struck by how non-judgemental she was. How much she cared for the voices of the children she worked with. How she listened deeper and harder than anyone I had ever met.

Vivian believed that the greatest gift we can give to any child is the act of kindness and I, like many others who have been lucky enough to have spent time with her, have seen first-hand the respect she gave to every child she met.

It was not the monsters they invented that frightened them in the kindergarten; it was being told to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time.

The greatest gift we can give to children is the kindness of listening to their words and showing them how important they are to us. Knowing about this gift is the most amazing thing Vivian Gussin Paley handed to me, and it is this gift that I will do my best to share for as long as I can, so that all teachers, early childhood practitioners, parents and childminders have the opportunity to take part in listening to the stories of their children, writing them down and experiencing the joy of acting them out.

To my dear friend Vivian, today the world feels emptier without you. You will not be forgotten.