Storytelling to Children
Daniel (age 5): "Why is the library the tallest building in town?"
EG (stumped): "I don't know. Why?"
Daniel (gleefully): "Because it has the most stories."
CHANGES IN ATTITUDE TOWARD children and several social movements that occurred in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century encouraged organized storytelling, that is, formal presentations of stories, to groups of children. These movements included the development of playgrounds, settlement houses, and Sunday Schools; the founding of the YMCA in 1851 and the YWCA in 1866; and the founding of the Boy Scouts in 1910 and the Girl Scouts in 1912. In 1900 the American Library Association, formed in 1876, established a special division for librarians serving children.
The exact date of the first library story hour is uncertain, but it was about 1900. By 1896 Anne Carroll Moore had given storytelling a place in the children's room of the new Pratt Institute Free Library in Brooklyn, New York. Storytelling had been tried experimentally as early as 1899 in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, just a year after the organization of the department for work with children. The program had such spectacular success that Frances Jenkins Olcott, who was the director of children's work, incorporated the story hour as a regular part of the program. In an article published in Carnegie Magazine in 1933, Elizabeth Botset of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh gave credit to another Pittsburgh librarian, Charlotte Keith Bissell, for the origin of library story hours. According to Botset,1 Bissell noticed a group of younger children listlessly leafing through picture books in the library. She wondered what the result would be if a librarian told stories to such children and why the story hour, so successful in hospitals, had not been tried in libraries to introduce books. During this same period the Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Library experimented with storytelling on Sunday afternoons to stimulate interest in books and reading, and in 1899 started regular Saturday morn-