Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Norton-Meier, Lori

Committee Member

Larson, Ann

Committee Member

Jacobi-Vessels, Jill

Committee Member

Williams, Bronwyn

Author's Keywords

play; literacy; educational inequity; critical literacy; play/literacy nexus; teachers' understandings of play


This study is about the inclusion of play in early childhood school settings, the contested nature of curricula that are not strictly quantifiable, and the ways that institutional inequity influences children’s access to school-based play. It is situated in a public elementary school kindergarten that centered play in the curriculum with varying degrees of support from a range of stakeholders. This ethnographic phenomenological case study depended on data collection methods of observational field notes and participant interviews, and grounded theory methods were employed for analysis. Findings were that teachers and administrators need clearer understandings of play and its integral connection to early literacy practices so they are valued and implemented in early childhood settings. Additionally, the voices of marginalized student populations and their families are excluded from institutional decision-making processes, which has the effect of silencing or controlling their participation in educational opportunities.