Storytelling to Young Children
… sharing books, rhymes, and pictures is one of the richest experiences we can
offer young children, and one of the most rewarding experiences we can offer
THE FIRST LIBRARY STORY hours were designed for children eight years and older, the age when children were expected to know how to read (as noted in Chapter 2). Librarians wanted to encourage young readers, and considered storytelling a form of reading guidance. Picture-book hours for younger children soon followed, but it was not until the 1940s that picture-book programs for the three- to five-year-olds became a regular part of library service to children.
The parent and child literature-sharing programs for infants and toddlers and their caregivers began in 1935 with the "Mothers' Room" program started by Clarence Sumner, director of the Youngstown (Ohio) Public Library. Sumner was a visionary who saw the Mothers' Room as "the 'builder' and 'feeder' for the Children's Room, being the logical first unit in the program of the public library."2 The Mothers' Room was designed to encourage literature-sharing activities between mothers and preschoolers, not with the purpose of teaching young children to read, but "to impress upon their minds the pleasures of literature."3 The Mothers' Room collection included picture storybooks and books and magazines on parenting. Lectures were presented every other week on children's reading, child care, and family relations. The movement spread nationwide, but after World War II, for reasons still unclear, librarians focused their attention on the three- to five-year-olds. One reason was the influx of picture-book artists from Europe and the improved technology that made possible the making of beautiful picture books for young children.
Library story hours for the three- to five-year-olds began in the late 1930s, and by 1940 were firmly established as part of regular library work. When the federal government initiated Head Start in 1965, attention once more turned to the role of the parent or primary caregiver as the child's first teacher. The Harvard Preschool Project (1965-1978) clearly