San Antonio, Texas, a fabled playground for the annual and historic Fiesta Celebration, is the perfect home for the Joe L. Frost Children’s Play and Play Environments Research Collection, housed in the J. E. and L. E. Mabee Library in the sylvan, natural setting of the University of the Incarnate Word.
Although near the urban center of the vibrant eighth largest city in the United States, the university campus is at the origin of the San Antonio River enjoying a nearly tropical setting with a natural landscape including a forest peppered with specimen live oak trees hundreds of years old. This celebrated gift has become the seminal collection of resources to support all aspects of the field of children’s play and the environment of play, including safety of children and playground equipment as well as child development.
The genesis of this preeminent collection began in the research that Dr. Joe Frost pursued over his lifetime as a scholar and a teacher. Dr. Frost followed his heart to be a positive and active influence in the lives of children by devoting his productive career of teaching. His intellectual curiosity naturally prompted him to begin acquiring all the material he could identify, in any format, which related to his chosen field and passion for his subject. The collection began as his earnest effort to draw together all books published about the subject beginning with publications from the nineteenth century. Examples include Froebel’s Education of Man (1887) and Mother-play and Nursery Songs (1895).
Over the years Dr. Frost has purchased from bookshops, private collectors, and online everything he could identify as part of this genre. Over his career, he himself authored 18 books as well as six volumes of original papers, reports, and articles, and has edited for many texts produced at hundreds of prestigious universities. He also supervised more than fifty doctoral dissertations. An active member of numerous professional organizations he has been invited to contribute papers and lecture, serve as keynote speaker and presenter at workshops and lectures, including the ACEI. His expertise has been recognized by selection as an expert witness for state legislatures and the national congress on Childhood Safety and Play Environments issues. His consulting activities on parks, playgrounds and swimming pools have resulted in numerous awards and recognition by colleagues and organizations.
As a mentor, his influence in these areas is truly worldwide. Much of his reading and research has been from this collection as it was acquired. He ended his active career as Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin capping a teaching career spanning forty plus years.
Today, the collection began by the contemporary Father of Play Advocacy goes from the very beginning of research in this field right up to the present day—and will continue with the future publication of books Dr. Frost and others are currently writing.
Nearing retirement from his full-time teaching career in 2000 from The University he began thinking about what to do with his valuable and unique collection. As a lifelong teacher, he wanted to continue to share and he wanted to make this marvelous collection available for those who will continue to research in his field. After considerable thought and deliberation he and his wife, Betty, decided they would like for it to be associated with the University of the Incarnate Word.
This decision to make Incarnate Word its permanent home was influenced by the annual “Playwork Institute of the Americas,” an outreach arm of the Dreeben School of Education housed at UIW. The primary mission of the Playwork Institute is to promote an awareness of the benefits of children’s play, provide training in playwork and promote the research of children’s play. It was also influenced by the Play and Literacy Symposium held at UIW.
With a student body of approximate 52 percent Hispanics, UIW serves an under-represented population of students. The Frosts like the fact that access to major research material is a wonderful opportunity not only for these students but also for other south Texas students as well. About 10 percent of the UIW student body is international. And of course, with the internet, the reach of the collection is even greater and will literally go around the world. Powerful technology is available to make the collection accessible to others outside the university through the website and library online catalog.
In all his areas of study, Frost read widely and collected books, papers, and materials in all formats and languages. The collection includes numerous rare works such as early editions by Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel, Patty Smith Hill, and Elizabeth Peabody, as well as new editions by current writers in the field. A recent gift by Dr. Dongju Shin, Duksung Women’s University of Seoul, South Korea, increased the collection by the addition of Korean volumes on Play and Early Childhood; English, French, Spanish, and Japanese are among languages represented.
Because UIW is a faith-based institution, it has always provided for the needs of children. This research collection is about the most basic need of children: play. Religious faith is an important cornerstone of Joe and Betty’s lives.
In addition to its strong and historic undergraduate program in Education, UIW offers masters and doctoral degrees that will be supported by the collection for reading, reference, and research. Most of all, their decision was based on their compatibility with the mission articulated for the university. This mission is animated by the work of UIW Education faculty under the direction of Dr. Denise Staudt, dean, and other colleagues both in the Dreeben School of Education and other disciplines of study, teaching and research offered at the university. Dr. Frost is eager to foster the cross-disciplinary nature of his work and its influence in such areas as psychology, sociology, etc.
An interdisciplinary group, the Friends of the Frost Collection begun in 2005, supports the scholarly activities and events of the collection as well as provides expertise to promote the collection and research-related projects. In addition, the Friends have made significant gifts to the collection’s contents. One example is Connie Sabo-Risley, whose education class raised money for the collection of new books. Other UIW students in CARE (Children are Reason Enough) visited Germany recently to study the early contributions of Frederick Froebel and brought back gifts for Dr. Frost and the collection. The gifts included Froebel blocks from Rudolstadt, Germany. Gifts of his educational blocks are from Bad Blankenberg, Germany, the site of Froebel’s first kindergarten. Monetary and in-kind gifts have also been contributed by a number of individuals.
Recognizing the importance of this collection and its potential, IPEMA became an early sponsor of the collection adding financial resources to the collection and generous endowment established by Dr. Joe and Betty Frost. IPEMA’s role is quite significant as the first and primary sponsor of the collection. IPEMA provided a generous check for $25,000 to support the further development and operating expenses for the collection. This allows the library to staff the collection, purchase resources, equipment and supplies needed to carry out the ongoing mission of the collection.
Tom Norquist, IPEMA president, realized the significance of the collection and its impact on the research on play at all levels. ACEI and Lakeshore are among strong partners in the development of the collection and recognition of its importance to scholarship to enrich the lives of children and thereby touch future generations.
With this background, the Joe L. Frost Children’s Play and Play Environments Research Collection was formally dedicated on April 21, 2004. in addition to the growing collection of cataloged books, there are easily over 500 bound periodicals, articles, reports, dissertations, theses and audiovisual including his own publications and other authorities in the forms of monographs, contributed chapters and sections, abstracts, television and radio broadcasts, newspaper and magazine feature articles.
Dr. Frost served as editor of Compton's Precyclopedia in addition to his other numerous writings. All of these materials are detailed on the website established for the Frost Collection. This website includes biographical data, Dr. Frost’s 2005 UIW Commencement Address, full bibliography of the collection, collection history, play and play literacy links.
As the development of the collection goes forward, Dr. Frost is now concentrating his efforts on acquiring the more recent publications to expand the comprehensive nature of these invaluable and dynamic resources to provide a wealth of information for generations of students to come and benefit children of all ages in the happy pursuit of play. The Frosts continue to add to the collection endowment with monetary and in-kind gifts.
The collection and its founder were recently showcased at the annual conference of the AECI where Dr. Frost received the Patty Smith Hill Award for his lifetime of work in the interests of children and their development. He spoke at the program which was followed by a reception at Incarnate Word featuring a Fiesta of Play theme. Colorful decorations, a mariachi band, and children’s choir entertained over 150 guests for the occasion which also featured a spectacular display of two gowns with trains and a separate train worn by princesses in recent Fiesta parades and events. Mexican food was served to complete the theme. The evening will be long remembered as a celebration of the life, contributions, and career of Dr. Joe L. Frost to this point in time. Stay tuned as more is to come from this prolific professor, mentor, and friend of children! Viva play and the Joe L. Frost Children’s Play and Play Environments Research Collection!