Saturday, July 12, 2008


What is a Story Time?
Although the definition of a story time could involve great debate as to form, methods, and function, for the purposes of this manual it will be defined as the intentional sharing of literature with children in the form of story reading and storytelling, usually in the public library.

Around the end of the 19th century libraries in various metropolitan locations began to offer a regular program designed for children. The Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh and the Pratt Free Institute in Brooklyn began to focus on the concept of a formal story program at the same time that vast numbers of immigrants were coming into American society, often with finely developed traditions of story sharing. The resulting “children’s story hour” concept proved successful with most citizens and libraries. Although a few appear to have had as a definite motive social change, most appeared to merely view the offering as a means of encouraging children to learn to love books.
For more detailed information on this period look for information on Anne Carroll Moore, Mary Wright Plummer, Marie Shedlock, and others.

Some of the earliest story times were oral recitations or readings of classics of western literature: Homer, Shakespeare, and Milton. There is a marvelous photograph from about 1900 of one large library’s children’s room. It is packed with children from small to early teen. They are listening in rapt attention to the librarian as she shares a tale. Behind her on the wall is a large framed lithograph of the statue of the “Dying Gaul” who is ruggedly defying his sure death in all his nude and marble splendor. I have always loved that statue and more than once wished I had that wonderful picture. What is amazing is that it was on the wall of the “children’s room”! It is an example of how things have changed in the course of a century because in most communities that would be seen as pornography and not as a masterpiece of great human artistry.

Over the last fifty years story times have become formalized with their customs and traditions. The resources for librarians to use have improved and have grown to include the latest findings in early child development, middle adolescent growth, and brain development. Where once a children’s story hour might be described in nursery rhyme phrases of “little children all in a row”, sitting quietly obediently while the librarian read a long book, the modern story time might include playtime, music, dance, and participative chants.

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