Vivian Gussin Paley Obituary

Vivian Gussin Paley was an inspirational figure for those engaged in early years education. With 13 publications on the subject, she was an American kindergarten teacher who became a patron of the British charity MakeBelieve Arts and my mentor. I first encountered Vivian in 1999, when I sought her advice regarding integrating some of her techniques into my work in London. As she was visiting the UK at the time, we decided to meet, and our friendship was forged, leading to her agreeing to become the patron of MakeBelieve Arts. She was particularly supportive of the charity’s Helicopter Stories programme, designed to enable children to dictate their stories to adults, who write them verbatim before the children act them out.

Born in Chicago to a family of professionals, Vivian earned her degree from the University of Chicago in 1947 and another in psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1950. Her career in preschool and kindergarten education took her to New Orleans and New York state before she discovered her passion for the use of play as an aid to children’s learning in Great Neck.

Over time, she developed a simple approach to teaching, centered around children telling their stories and then enacting them. She relocated to Chicago in 1962, began writing books on early childhood education in the 1970s and, although initially overlooked, ultimately became a celebrated expert in her field. Vivian retired in 1995, but continued to present speeches and workshops globally until 2016.

She was predeceased by her husband of many years, Irving Paley, and her son Robert in 2017. She is survived by her son David, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.


  • tenleylancaster

    Tenley Lancaster is a 34-year-old educational blogger and student. She enjoys writing about topics related to education, including but not limited to student motivation, learning styles, and effective study techniques. Tenley has also written for various websites and magazines, and is currently working on her first book. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.