PUBLISHED: Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gaye Gronlund

Published: 2013

As an early childhood professional—whether you are a classroom teacher, program director, administrator, trainer, policy maker, caregiver, or instructor—you are likely familiar with Gaye Gronlund’s many contributions to the field. In our latest Author Spotlight, Gaye tells us about the guiding principle behind all of her work. She also shares the scoop on her latest projects and tells us about the origins of her focus on authentic assessment, play-based curriculum, and staff development topics.

Quote by Gaye Gronlund

You’ve written several books with Redleaf Press, and they have all become popular resources in early childhood classrooms and texts in college courses. Describe your books and tell us a bit about your objective in writing them.

In my writing and consulting, I focus on implementing learning through play and exploration, incorporating early learning standards, and assessing children’s progress through observation and portfolios. My goal is always to give suggestions that are realistic and practical and help early educators continue to focus on meeting the needs of individual children and to maintain their passion for their work.

Focused Portfolios was written with my colleague, Bev Engel. It provides a practical way to document observations and relate them to standards or developmental milestones.

Focused Early Learning, which was revised and updated as Planning for Play, Observation, and Learning in Preschool and Kindergarten, is my attempt to capture all that happens in good curricular practices for preschool and kindergarten children on a lesson-planning framework.

Focused Observations, Second Edition was written with my colleague, Marlyn James. It provides guidance for effective observation and documentation for assessment and curriculum planning purposes. It includes a new CD-ROM that offers ways for readers to practice and refine their skills.

Make Early Learning Standards Come Alive shows that standards can be an effective part of developmentally appropriate practices! It’s how they are used that is important—always for the benefit of the children.

Developmentally Appropriate Play provides early childhood educators with a solid understanding of the importance of play, the research that supports its benefits, and many ways to bring about high-level play where children sustain engagement, learn new concepts, and practice their skills. A family companion to this book is also available.

Early Learning Standards and Staff Developmentwas written with my colleague, Marlyn James. It provides staff development specialists and college instructors with ideas and activities for helping others to understand the best ways to implement early learning standards. 

Redleaf Press books by Gaye Gronlund 

What prompted you to write these books?

I am passionate about the field of early childhood education and the importance of best practices when working with young children. “Do no harm” is such an important guiding principle in all of my work. So, my enthusiasm for explaining play-based learning rises from that, as does my devotion to authentic, observational assessment processes. I see so many early educators being pressured to give up play in favor of teacher-directed activities where children are passive receivers of information rather than active learners. I also see confusion about the best ways to assess young children’s progress. I hope my books and consulting help educators and policy makers to continue to work for the benefit of young children and not do them harm with inappropriate expectations, curricula, and testing. In my opinion, young children deserve nothing less than our full commitment to their well-being.


What has your career path been like? Did you always know you wanted to work in early education?

I have worked in a variety of early childhood programs over the years and learned so much from my colleagues, the children, and the families in each one. My career has included teaching in a residential treatment preschool program, a child care program, a cooperative nursery school, a Head Start program, and both special education preschool and kindergarten classrooms. My consulting has also provided me with fascinating experiences including guiding the development of the State of New Mexico’s PreK Program, writing early learning standards for both the states of New Mexico and Illinois, developing train-the-trainer experiences in several authentic assessment processes, and serving as the project director for NAEYC’s 2009 third edition of Developmentally Appropriate Practice.

I have been in the field of early childhood education for thirty-five years. There is something so special about the young child—the way the light bulb goes off as he figures something out and the enthusiasm with which she relishes a new discovery. I am fascinated by developmental psychology and learning theories. I say that “we’re in the human being business!” and I’ve found this to be my true calling.


What projects are you working on now?

I am in the process of revising Make Early Learning Standards Come Alive for a second edition to be published in 2014.


When you’re not busy writing and working, how do you spend your time?

My husband and I split our time between our two homes with summers in Traverse City, Michigan, and winters in Tucson, Arizona. We’re very fortunate to have the combination of water in the summer and mountains in the winter. Our children are Colin, a 32-year-old professional musician, principal bassist with the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic Orchestra, and Gwen, a 28-year-old project manager with a non-profit world rescue organization based in Tucson (World Care). We treasure the times that our family is together.


What’s on your bucket list?

Believe it or not, I’m pursuing writing fiction! I’m working on a few ideas for novels and even have a writing coach this year.


Where else can we find you?

My website is I love to hear from my readers and invite them to contact me there.


Learn more and see a full list of titles by Gaye Gronlund.