Occasional Paper Series #45

Welcoming Play in Times of Trauma: A Response to Cassie Brownell

by Karen Wohlwend

I’m honored and delighted to welcome Cassie Brownell to a growing community of early childhood play researchers. In one sense, welcoming implies an unequal power relation where an established member of a community introduces an unknown newcomer. This feels a bit disingenuous. Cassie is already a rising star in our field and really needs no introduction! Her work is part of an exciting new trend in literacy research that blends play with social activism and community building.

Cassie is a part of a group of emerging scholars who see and build upon brilliance that is already there: Children do not need to be taught to play or to take play seriously. In this special issue, the notion of welcoming is greatly enriched by Jonathan Silin’s scholarship, which invites an opportunity to open up our thinking, as well as our arms.

Welcoming activates the generosity, unflinching self-criticality, and openness that permeates Silin’s work. This kind of welcome reaches outward toward newcomers— whether young children or emerging scholars. A welcome can be a compassionate gift and the beginning of a connection. We feel this in Cassie’s reflection on her first year of teaching when a group of Black teachers embrace her as a new member of their school community and New Orleans neighborhood. We feel the impact of their care and support.

About the Author

Karen Wohlwend is a professor of literacy, culture, and language education at Indiana University, Bloomington. She studies young children’s play as an embodied literacy that produces action texts made with moving bodies in dramatic play centers, video games, digital animation apps, or live-action filmmaking. Current literacy playshop projects focus on play in early childhood classrooms, makerspaces, and children’s museums. Her books include Literacy Playshop: New Literacies, Popular Media, and Play in the Early Childhood Classroom and Literacies that Move and Matter: Nexus Analysis for Contemporary Childhoods.

Karen Wohlwend