Jill Vialet is the author of the new children's book Recess Rules. She is the founder and CEO of Playworks, a nonprofit organization that works with schools to improve recess for kids. She also co-founded the Museum of Children's Arts (MOCHA) in Oakland, California. She is based in Oakland.
Q: Why did you decide to write Recess Rules, and how do the book's themes fit with your work at Playworks?
A: I actually set out to write a book for grown-ups about my experiences starting Playworks - sort of a combination of how to guide on play and recess and inspiration around achieving social change. But every time I sat down to write that book, it just came out in a way that didn't feel authentic.
So I started working on this book - telling a story aimed at kids that showed them how recess could be. It was way more fun to write - and ultimately targeting the group that I most wanted to inspire and move to action.
Q: How did you come up with the character of Clarence?
A: I had a playground supervisor named Clarence when I was growing up in D.C. who always made sure I got in the game.
The character was really inspired by a number of different Playworks coaches over the years - but it seemed like if I was going to have an angel, naming him Clarence in honor of my own Clarence and It's A Wonderful Life was meant to be.
Q: Do you think readers will identify with one of the kids in the book more than the others?
A: I really hope that the readers will find something in all of the characters to identify with - I think Cassie is the most obvious protagonist, but I found myself identifying a lot with Toni and Bryant, and Clarence as well.
Q: What age group do you think will enjoy the book?
A: I think 8-13 - though I'm also hoping that there will be a number of grown-ups who get into it - parents, teachers, other folks who work with kids
Q: Are you planning to write another book?
A: No immediate plans to write another book, but I really enjoyed writing it and I'm open to the possibility.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Just that there is a guide to all the games that are played in the book at the very end and that I hope readers will be inspired to give the games a try after reading about them. I'd love to hear stories and see pictures if people do end up trying some of the games out!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb