Every act of reading is, in one way or another, an act of playing (Giannicopoulou, 2008). Whether reading a story independently, being read a story, or observing a visual story in a picture book, the child is engaged in a process of playing with words, sounds, images, and ideas and re-creating an entire imaginary world in her/his mind. As early as 1938, in her seminal text Literature as Exploration, Luise Rosenblatt views reading as a unique process of exploration and exchange between an individual reader and a specific text: “The reader brings to the work personality traits, memories of past events, present needs and preoccupations, a particular mood of the moment, and a particular physical condition” (p. 31). According to Rosenblatt’s “Transactional Theory”, the meaning of the story is created through a transaction between the reader and the text (1978); this transaction is particularly creative and playful.
Several theorists have identified the similarities between reading and playing, and have stressed the need for educators to encourage children to approach literature in a playful manner. Christian Poslaniek (1992) asserts that play, and the pleasures it brings to the player, can be the most powerful motive for children to read.
Correlations have also been established between the creative work of authors/illustrators and playing. A story is the result of an artistic play with words, symbols, images, ideas, which the artist arranges and re-arranges until s/he is satisfied with the result; the reader is then called upon to re-create the story by playing with the available material on the page, combining it with the “inner material” s/he brings along.
The symposium aimed at exploring the aforementioned relationships between books, playing, and creativity, approaching the issue from various perspectives. Petros Panaou introduced the theme by analyzing the theoretical discussions around the book as play, game, or even toy. Two artists, Frixos Michaelides (illustrator and author) and Eleni Artemiou (author) then described their work in terms of creative play and established associations with what they do during workshops to encourage children play with their works. Finally, Charis Polycarpou, an educator, shared her experiences regarding playful/creative interactions between children and books, describing specific activities she has organized at her school and drawing conclusions.
The second part of the symposium was coordinated by Costas Katsonis (president of CyBBY). A 10-15 minutes dialogue between the four participants took place, during which the speakers interacted, commenting on each other’s ideas and experiences. The audience was then invited to participate in the discussion with comments and questions.