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upon them to assist in keeping up the standard of good behavior.

We reach the younger children partly through the children’s hour, not by talking to them on these subjects, but by winning them to us through the stories we tell and in our treatment of them.

With the High School boys and girls, it is more difficult. The suspension of two boys had a beneficial effect, but the principal of the High School is our greatest help with them.

Miss Bertha Marx, Sheboypan, Wis.

The matter of discipline has not been of sufficient importance in our library to be classed as a problem. This may be due to two facts: First, the atmosphere discourages rowdyism, loud talking and visiting; secondly, an unwritten rule is that there must be quiet in the library but not necessarily absolute silence. It seems to me where the order in a library is not what it would be, the staff is lacking in its sense of discipline.

If by chance, a group of people happens to make too much noise, we never hesitate to step up to them and in a courteous manner request them to be quiet. Such disturbance is usually caused through thoughtlessness, not from any desire to break a library rule, and after people have been cautioned they rarely commit the offense again. I will admit this must be done in a tactful way, for a grown person does not wish to be dictated to in the library as though he were a child in school. There are a few old men and women who persist in talking in a loud tone of voice; we know it would hurt their feelings if they were told to be quiet and therefore we wait upon them quickly, even ahead of their turn and so get rid of them as soon as possible.

The boys and girls of the High School have to be spoken to quite frequently as they are so imbued with a sense of their own importance that they have very little regard for the order of the library. The most effective appeal which can be made to them is to suggest that every one has equal rights in the library and that when other people come who wish quiet in the reading rooms, the High School pupils have no right to deprive them of it.

One evening the pupils were unusually noisy, we had cautioned them in vain to be quiet, and finally I ordered them all to leave the library. They were simply aghast for they were to have a test in history the following day and the material could only be procured from our reference shelves. I was aware of this at the time but felt drastic measures must be taken to show them that the three readers who shared the room with them had a right to undisturbed order. They plead with me in vain, and finally admitted that they deserved their punishment. It is needless to say that their history teacher approved my actions and that for weeks afterwards we had no more trouble with High School students.

The library is never used as a club or meeting-place by people for we discourage all attempts at visiting among our patrons.

It is not often found necessary to discipline the children in their reading-room as their behavior is on the whole, very good. When they become mischievous or noisy, it is generally because they have remained in the library too long and have grown restless, so they are advised to go out-doors and play for a time. We have practically none of the rowdy elements to deal with and when such children do come, we find that the attractive surroundings seem to have a quieting effect upon them.

Miss Mary J. Calkins, Racine, Wis.

The problem of discipline in the Library, is one which is “ever with us,” and I do not feel sure that I have solved it to my satisfaction. We have tried “signs” and no signs; gentle persuasion and stern and rigid rules; and still we cannot always be sure of order, and a proper library deportment on the part of either children or grown people. I have come to the conclusion, that the character of the individual has everything to do with it. Children who defy rules both at home and at school, will also give trouble in the library, and nothing but a complete withdrawal of privileges will do any good. We have had very little trouble during the past year, but the children themselves seem to be different, the rougher class not coming to the library to make trouble, as they did formerly. The High School students are much more of a problem than the younger children; and cause much more disturbance, as far as my experience goes. When they are engaged in preparing their debates, it is necessary to have one of the staff sit in the room with them, and keep constant supervision, or the whole library will be disturbed.

Miss Margaret Biggert, Berlin, Wis.

During the past winter, for the first time since we have been in our new library it has been a question how to manage the situation without antagonizing the offenders, for it seems to me a librarian must avoid appearing in the guise of ogre even at the expense of perfect order. Scholars from the schools use the library constantly in their school work–including reference work for their three debating societies and it is with these pupils that the problem has been, the reference room becoming quite noisy– though more from thoughtlessness and high spirits than otherwise. I feel certain a cork carpet would help to solve this problem in our library–with the unavoidable noise of heels on hard wood floors, it is hard to make people realize they are disturbing others.

My own system of dealing with the problem has been to warn them as pleasantly as possible that they are forgetting themselves and then to impress on them individually as the chance offered, the necessity of remembering that the library is a place for reading and study–not a “conversation room” as an irate gentleman one day said a group of ladies seemed to think. Though it is very seldom that people who meet friends, either by chance or appointment cause any annoyance by remaining to carry on conversation. No signs enjoining silence are in evidence. The younger children have their own reading room and have given very little trouble. This I believe to be in a measure due to the influence of their teachers, who keep in close touch with the work of the library. One lad of about ten, the ringleader of a group, was sent from the library for misbehavior. I was pleased but surprised to have him appear at my home one morning and say: “I am sorry I cut up at the library and I’ll never do it again.” He never has and he comes regularly.

We were at one time troubled with boys gathering outside the library evenings, making considerable disturbance with malicious intent. I was forced at length to call a police officer, who took the names of the offenders and walked through the reading rooms effectually quelling any budding aspirations toward hoodlumism in the children seated at the tables and we have had no trouble of that kind since.

Miss Molly Catlin, Stevens Point, Wis.

The matter of discipline has not been a difficult one with us, of course we have a good deal of noise, the adults are very apt to forget and talk noisily but as far as real trouble is concerned we have not had it.

The Boys’ Club room is a great help, in that the boy who just comes down town for fun and not to read goes into that room from preference.

The girls and little children are often times noisy but with a glance or gentle reminder of some kind, they seem to be all right.

The discipline of the Boys’ Club Room is, however, a different matter, it really is hard to discipline, but the reason is that we never yet have gotten just the right kind of an attendant to care for the room, we need one who is interested in boys, who can mingle with them and teach them games, etc. We now have a young man, well educated and a good man but he is lax in discipline and careless about the room. Nevertheless I think the Boys’ Club room a success, for during the months of February and March we have sometimes between fifty and seventy boys in attendance at one time and they seem to enjoy it.

Miss Ella T. Hamilton, Whitewater, Wis.

I suppose I have found much the same difficulties as others in regard to discipline. Our High School pupils, especially when working on their school debates, for which they get much of their material from the library, do sometimes find it easy to work together to the annoyance of their neighbors, but as they are, on the whole, well intentioned young people they usually take kindly the reproof. I do not mean to say that they do always after remember and act accordingly. Who of us do? And my experience as a teacher has taught me that some lessons have to be often repeated. There is, however, a kindly feeling between the young people who use the library and those who have charge of it, for we try to help them to whatever they need and they appreciate the fact; and this fact I think helps in the matter of discipline. The main reading room seems sometimes rather full with them, but there are places for but sixteen at the tables and that partly explains it. I have had occasionally the difficulty of young people making the library a meeting place. Only two weeks ago, I told a young Miss and her attendant, that we could dispense with their presence in the library; they have both been back since, but not in any way to our annoyance.

We were at one time much troubled by some boys from ten to fourteen. Sending home didn’t help for very long, and I finally went to the parents of the ring-leaders with very good results. Perhaps the fact that complaints came to them from several other sources helped. But I am sure parents can aid the librarian as well as the teacher. The only notices I have ever had up in my library in regard to order are two neatly printed signs, “Silence is golden.” I think they have been more suggestive and effective than the ordinary sign.

Miss Grace E. Salisbury, Whitewater, (Normal School.)

In answer to your circular just received, I hardly know what to say. We have practically no disciplining to do. Of course conditions are not the same as in a public library. At the beginning of the school year every evidence of disorder is nipped in the bud, and after a few weeks we are entirely freed from any annoyance from visiting or other disorder. The children from the model school some times show a little inclination to talk too much in getting their books. If a word does not quiet them, the ring leader as it were is sent down to his department room which is the worst possible punishment as they love to come to the library. This never happens more than once or twice a year.

The greatest help I have at the opening of the school year in creating the spirit I wish in the library, is the small work room opening out of it. If students visit, or get to talking over their work, I ask them if they will please take their work into the work room where they can talk things over without disturbing any one. They never resent that, when many times they would resent almost anything else in the way of reproof. If they talk too loud in there or seem to be still disturbing, I call attention to the fact that others are trying to work, and find it difficult to do so under the conditions.

After the first few weeks of the year, I think I have to speak to a student not oftener than once in several weeks if that.

I think the student body recognize the library as a place where they can find absolute quiet, and welcome it in that light, and most of them are glad to help to keep it so.

Mrs. Alice A. Lamb, Litchfield, Minn.

Our library opened four years ago. An acquaintance, through teaching, with most of the children of the town has been of great assistance. Possibly, mature years with a reputation for strict order in school have been of value.

At any rate disorder is almost unknown. We started with the idea of perfect quiet in the building. The text “Be gentle and keep the voice low” was given a prominent place on the walls of the children’s room for the first year and I’m sure was helpful.

If the little children get to visiting, usually a glance or a shake of the head is sufficient. To the older children it has been necessary a few times to say quietly, “We must have perfect quiet here.” This of course is said privately so that no one but the offender hears.

Sending home seems a legitimate punishment and if judiciously used ought to produce good results.

The good will of the children, with good nature and firmness on the part of the librarian would seem the chief essentials to good order.

If disorder has once become a habit the problem is a serious one. In small libraries with but one person in charge it would seem wise to hire an assistant or have an apprentice to do the desk work during the evening hours or whenever disorder is likely to occur, and let the librarian be free to go about the rooms and use her best efforts to establish order, by every tactful means possible.

Our building is so arranged that every part of it can be seen by the librarian at her desk. This doubtless is a very great aid in discipline, and perhaps explains why we have never been troubled by the boys and girls making a “meeting place” of the library.

Miss Agnes J. Petersen, Manitowoc, Wis.

Reading over your questions on the subject of discipline in the library, brought back very vividly to my mind, the first years of our library work.

From the first day of opening, absolute quiet was made one of the rules of the library, and many boys and girls went home early in the evenings before they would recognize the rule. The fact that no disturbance of any kind would be tolerated was so impressed upon everybody, but, especially upon the children, that now, though the supervision is not so strictly kept, the same good order is easily maintained. A word or look of warning is at most times sufficient now to keep a roomful of 75 children in order except on rare occasions. We did practically I believe what every librarian does. The offender was warned concerning his conduct, and if, after several warnings, he still “dared us” he was sent home, not permitted to return to the library, nor draw books for a week or two as the case might be, only returning after promising good behavior in the future. When, as it happened a few times, the offender did not respond to this treatment, the president of our Library Board sent a note by the chief of police to the offender’s parents, and that inevitably ended the matter. Only one boy was suspended for two weeks during this past year, and he gives a great deal of trouble at school, also.


The function of the story hour as a recognized feature of library work with children has been variously discussed. The five papers given below represent these different points of view, and the experience of several libraries is included in the report of the Committee on Story- telling given at the Congress of the Playground Association of America in 1910.

Another group method, which has been adopted as a means of introducing children to books and of securing continuity of interest, is that of the reading club. The three articles given show the influence of the direct, personal effort of Miss Hewins, and the carefully organized work of somewhat different types in two large library systems.

The early history of home library work with children as conducted by the Boston Children’s Aid Society and a consideration of the place of this method in extension work of libraries in general are included.

Library work in summer playgrounds is one development of cooperation with other institutions. The first article included may be supplemented by a statement made by Miss Frances J. Olcott in an article on “The public library, a social force in Pittsburgh,” printed in the Survey magazine, March 5, 1910. She states that “Perhaps the most important phase of the library’s work with children which is being developed at present is that of playground libraries. … Now that the Playground Association is establishing recreation centers for winter as well as summer, arrangements have been made with the library to supply books, the Association providing the necessary reading rooms in its new buildings.” Practical difficulties in administration are discussed in the second article.

The last group of articles brings together several unrelated phases of work. Two special kinds of children’s libraries are mentioned, one a type–the Sunday School library–and one a library organized for specific work in connection with the Children’s Museum in Brooklyn. Work with colored children in a colored branch library is described. The last paper gives a vivid picture of work with children in a foreign district of a large city.


The paper by Edna Lyman Scott, printed in the Wisconsin Bulletin for January, 1905, was said to be introductory to a talk which she was to give at Beloit at the Wisconsin State meeting, February 22, 1905. The author looks upon the inauguration of the story hour as but the grasping of an opportunity in working with children in the library, as a means of cultivating the love of literature and of introducing the child to books.

Edna Lyman, now Mrs. Scott, was born in Illinois, educated in the schools of Oak Park, Ill., and at Bradford Academy, Haverhill, Massachusetts. At the time this paper was written she was the children’s librarian in the Oak Park Public Library, then known as Scoville Institute. Her work in story telling became known outside the immediate field of its activity, and in 1907 Miss Lyman severed her connection with this library to give time to special preparation, and later to become a lecturer on literature for children and story-telling, and a professional story-teller. She spent portions of three years as Advisory Children’s Librarian for the Iowa Library Commission, and during that period published her book “Story-telling: what to tell and how to tell it.” She holds the position of non-resident faculty lecturer on Work for Children in the Library School of the University of Illinois, and the Carnegie Library School of Atlanta, Georgia, and lectures regularly in other library schools, before teachers’ institutes and normal schools, women’s clubs and study classes throughout the country.

When we touch the question of guiding the reading of children in our libraries we have opened the consideration of a subject which is one of the great arguments for the existence of public libraries.

All about we see and feel the utter indifference of parents to what their children are reading, or whether they are reading at all, and the results of this indifference appear on every hand, in the character of the books which content the child, or in his determination to bury himself in a book to the exclusion of every other interest.

The librarian sees this indifference and its fruit and realizes that it adds another responsibility to her already long list, and another opportunity to serve. She may doubt whether her province is to educate the taste of the public at large, but there can be no question that in the case of the children the choice is not left for her to make; the only reason for the child’s reading at all is that he may grow mentally and spiritually. There is no way to protect the child against worthless books except by giving him a decided taste for what is good. Hamilton Mabie says that “tastes depend very largely on the standards with which we are familiar,” and if these standards are acquired hit and miss, without training, they are likely to be of a most doubtful character.

The love of literature, like the love of any of the fine arts, is susceptible of cultivation and is strengthened by constant contact with the beauty and greatness which can compel it. “They are exceptional children who read everything regardless of its character and come out all right. We do not know that any child is of such a make-up. We must deal with him as though he were not the exceptional but the normal child.” The influence of all that he reads upon the mind of the child is sufficiently appalling, but it is not to be compared with the influence on his character. Henry Churchill King says: “It is his susceptibility to the faintest suggestion that makes the child so marvelous an imitator.” The significance of this truth lies not only in the fact that he responds to the example in manners and morals of those about him, but equally, and perhaps even more exactly, to the heroes who live within the covers of his books. If the dangers are great, our response must be as forceful and our search untiring for the influence which will most surely lead the child to the best.

And what means shall be found? The answer seems ready to hand in the use of one of the oldest, yet one of the newest arts, the art of story-telling. You may talk to a child about books, he will give a certain kind of response, particularly if he respects your judgment because of previous experience, but tell him a story and you have fastened him with chains he does not care to resist.

The inauguration of the story hour then is but the grasping of an opportunity, first of all to give keenest joy to the child, and at the same time to set his standard for judging the value of other stories by those he hears, to give him a love for beautiful form, to introduce him to books he might never choose for himself and to bind him to the friend who tells him stories, so that he will feel a confidence in her suggestions.

Before choosing our stories for telling it will be well to remind ourselves of our purpose in telling stories, namely, to give familiarity with good English, to cultivate the imagination, to develop the sympathy, and to give a clear impression of moral truth. With this purpose in mind we shall gather our children into groups whose ages are near, and will be reached by the same tales. We must be methodical in this as in all our library work, and have our campaign well planned before we begin.

Not everyone has the gift of telling stories, but if one is not gifted with the art himself, there will doubtless be someone who is, who can be secured for the purpose, if we only feel that the need is great enough.

The way is open to the minds and hearts of the children. Shall we neglect it because it is old, or because it is new, or because we seem somewhat hampered by existing conditions? Why not follow the successes of others, and then find our own?

The above paper by Miss Lyman is offered as introductory to a talk which she will give at Beloit at the Wisconsin state meeting, February 22, 1905. The story hour has been most successfully conducted in a few of our libraries. To be sure every librarian is not qualified to conduct a successful story hour, but it is usually possible to find someone in the community who will tell the stories. The story hour requires a good deal of preparation. In Pittsburgh the librarians who were to tell stories had special training under Miss Shedlock, a well-known English story teller, and gave thorough study to the subject before attempting to interest the children. This library has published a pamphlet on Story telling to children from Norse mythology and the Nibehulgenlied. This pamphlet contains references to material on selected stories, an annotated reading list for the story teller and for young people, a full outline of a course, and many valuable suggestions. The same library published in its bulletin, October, 1902, the following outlines:

LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE Story 1. Merlin the Enchanter Story 2. How Arthur won his kingdom and how he got his sword Excalibur. Story 3. The marriage of Arthur and Guinevere and the founding of the Round Table. Story 4. The adventure of Gareth Story 5. The adventure of Geraint. Story 6. The adventure of Geraint and the Fair Enid. Story 7. The story of the dolorous stroke. Story 8. How Launcelot saved Guinevere; or, The adventure of the cart. Story 9. Launcelot and the lily-maid of Astrolat. Story 10. The coming of Galahad Story 11. The quest of the Sangreal Story 12. The achieving of the Sangreal. Story 13. The passing of Arthur.


Story 14. The adventures of Ogier the Dane. Story 15. More adventures of Ogier the Dane. Story 16. The sons of Aymon. Story 17. Malagis the wizard Story 18. A Roland for an Oliver Story 19. The Princes of Cathay. Story 20. How Reinold fared to Cathay. Story 21. The quest of Roland Story 22. In the gardens of Falerina. Story 23. Bradamant, the warrior maiden. Story 24. The contest of Durandal. Story 25. The battle of Roncesvalles.

This regular story course will be broken into at the holidays when stories appropriate to the season will be told.

Their bulletin for November, 1904, gives the program for 1904-5 on Legends of Robin Hood and Stories from Ivanhoe. The outline follows:


Story 1. How Robin Hood became an outlaw. Story 2. How Robin Hood outwitted the Sheriff of Nottingham Town. Story 3. A merry adventure of Robin Hood. Story 4. How Robin Hood gained three merry men in one day. Story 5. The story of Allin a Dale. Story 6. The story of the Sorrowful Knight. Story 7. The Queen’s champion. Story 8. Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne. Story 9. How King Richard visited Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. Story 10. Robin Hood’s death and burial. Story 11. The tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche. Story 12. The second day of the tournament. Story 13. The siege of Torquilstone.

The following extract on the children’s story hour is taken from the Pittsburgh bulletin of December, 1901.


The Library story hour for the children began in a very modest way at our West End branch. It has passed through the experimental stage and is now a part of the regular routine of our six children’s rooms. At first disconnected stories were told but when we found how much the stories influenced the children’s reading, we began to follow a regular program, which has proved more effective than haphazard story telling. Last year we told stories from Greek mythology and Homer and had an attendance of over 5,000 children. The books placed on special story hour shelves were taken out 2,000 times.

This year the stories are drawn from the Norse myths and the Niebelungen Lied. They are told by the children’s librarians and the students of our Training school for children’s librarians, every Friday afternoon from November first to April first. As the hour draws near, the children’s rooms begin to fill with eagerly expectant children. There is an atmosphere of repressed excitement, and when the appointed minute comes, the children quickly form into line and march into the lecture room where the story is told. Once there, the children group themselves on the floor about the story teller, and all is attention. It may be that the story is a hard one to tell, the process of adapting and preparing it may have been difficult, but in the interested faces of the children and in the bright eyes fixed upon her face, the story teller finds her inspiration.

Extra copies of books containing Norse myths have been provided for each children’s room. Since few of these books are for very young children, we tell these poetic stories of our Northern ancestors to the older boys and girls only. For the younger ones there are such stories as The Three Bears, Hop-o’-my-thumb, and other old nursery favorites. At Thanksgiving, Christmas and a few other holidays, the program is dropped and one full of the spirit of the season is told instead. That the children enjoy and appreciate the stories is seen by the steadily increasing attendance, and by the fact that the same children return week after week. Teachers say the very worst punishment they can inflict is to detain a child so late on Friday that he misses his story hour. During the summer months, and early fall, when no stories were being told, there were many anxious inquiries as to when the story hour would begin. At our West End branch the children clamored so for their stories that the work was commenced a month before the time for beginning the regular program.

And what is the use of story telling? Is it merely to amuse and entertain the children? Were it simply for this, the time would not seem wasted, when one recalls the bright and happy faces and realizes what an hour of delight it is to many children oftentimes their only escape from mean and sordid surroundings Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson once said that to lie on the hearth rug and listen to one’s mother reading aloud is a liberal education, but such sweet and precious privileges are only for the few. The story hour is intended to meet this want in some slight degree, to give the child a glimpse beyond the horizon which hitherto has limited his life, and open up to him those vast realms of literature which are a part of his inheritance, for unless he enters this great domain through the gateway of childish fancy and imagination, the probability is that he will never find any other opening. To arouse and stimulate a love for the best reading is then the real object of the story hour. Through the story the child’s interest is awakened, the librarian places in his hands just the right book to develop that interest, and gradually there is formed a taste for good literature.


In the following article, contributed to Public Libraries for November, 1908, Mr. John Cotton Dana protests against the popular idea of library story-telling and advocates instruction given to teachers both in story- telling and in the use of books as a better method “as to cost and results.” John Cotton Dana was born in Woodstock, Vermont, in 1856, received the degree of A.B. from Dartmouth in 1878, and studied law in Woodstock from 1878 to 1880. He was a land surveyor in Colorado in 1880-1881, was admitted to the New York bar in 1883, and spent 1886-1887 in Colorado as a civil engineer. He was Librarian of the Denver Public Library from 1889 to 1897; of the City Library, Springfield, Mass., from 1898- 1902, and since 1902 has been Librarian of the Free Public Library of Newark, N. J.

Story-telling to groups of young children is now popular among librarians. The art is practiced chiefly by women. No doubt one reason for its popularity is that it gives those who practice it the pleasures of the teacher, the orator and the exhorter. It must be a delight to have the opportunity to hold the attention of a group of children; to see their eyes sparkle as the story unwinds itself; to feel that you are giving the little people high pleasure, and at the same time are improving their language, their morals, their dramatic sense, their power of attention and their knowledge of the world’s literary masterpieces. Also, it is pleasant to realize that you are keeping them off the streets; are encouraging them to read good books; are storing their minds with charming pictures of life and are making friends for your library.

In explaining its popularity I have stated briefly the arguments usually given in favor of library story-telling. There is another side.

A library’s funds are never sufficient for all the work that lies before it. Consequently, the work a library elects to do is done at the cost of certain other work it might have done. The library always puts its funds, skill and energy upon those things which it thinks are most important, that is, are most effective in the long run, in educating the community. Now, the schools tell stories to children, and it is obviously one of their proper functions so to do at such times, to such an extent and to such children as the persons in charge of the schools think wise. It is probable that the schoolmen know better when and how to include story-telling in their work with a given group of children than do the librarians. If a library thinks it knows about this subject more than do the schools, should it spend time and money much needed for other things in trying to take up and carry on the schools’ work? It would seem not. Indeed, the occasional story-telling which the one library of a town or city can furnish is so slight a factor in the educational work of that town or city as to make the library’s pride over its work seem very ludicrous.

If, now, the library by chance has on its staff a few altruistic, emotional, dramatic and irrepressible child-lovers who do not find ordinary library work gives sufficient opportunities for altruistic indulgence, and if the library can spare them from other work, let it set them at teaching the teachers the art of story-telling.

Contrast, as to cost and results, the usual story-telling to children with instruction in the same and allied arts to teachers. The assistant entertains once or twice each week a group of forty or fifty children. The children–accustomed to schoolroom routine, hypnotized somewhat by the mob-spirit, and a little by the place and occasion, ready to imitate on every opportunity –listen with fair attention. They are perhaps pleased with the subject matter of the tale, possibly by its wording, and very probably by the voice and presence of the narrator. They hear an old story, one of the many that help to form the social cement of the nation in which they live. This is of some slight value, though the story is only one of scores which they hear or read in their early years at school. The story has no special dramatic power in its sequence. As a story it is of value almost solely because it is old. It has no special value in its phrasing. It may have been put into artistic form by some man of letters; but the children get it, not in that form, but as retold by an inspired library assistant who has made no mark in the world of letters by her manner of expression. The story has no moral save as it is dragged in by main strength; usually, in fact, and especially in the case of myths, the moral tone needs apologies much more than it needs praise.

To prepare for this half hour of the relatively trivial instruction of a few children in the higher life, the library must secure a room and pay for its care, a room which if it be obtained and used at all could be used for more profitable purposes; and the performer must study her art and must, if she is not a conceited duffer, prepare herself for her part for the day at a very considerable cost of time and energy.

Now, if the teachers do not know the value of story-telling at proper times and to children of proper years; if they do not realize the strength of the influence for good that lies in the speaking voice–though that this influence is relatively over-rated in these days I am at a proper time prepared to show–if they do not know about the interest children take in legends, myths and fairy tales, and their value in strengthening the social bond, then let the library assistants who do know about such things hasten to tell them. I am assuming for purposes of argument that the teachers do not know, and that library assistants can tell them. I shall not attempt to say how the library people will approach the teacher with their information without offending them, except to remark that tactful lines of approach can be found; and to remark, further, that by setting up a story-hour in her library a librarian does not very tactfully convey to the teachers the intimation that they either do not know their work or willfully neglect it.

With this same labor of preparation, in the room used to talk 30 minutes to a handful of children, the librarian could far better address a group of teachers on the use of books in libraries and schoolrooms. Librarians have long contended that teachers are deficient in bookishness; and it is quite possible that they are. Their preparation in normal schools compels them to give more attention to method than to subject matter. They have lacked incentive and opportunity to become familiar with books, outside of the prescribed text-books and supplementary readers. They do not know the literature of and for childhood, and not having learned to use books in general for delight and utility themselves they cannot impart the art to their pupils. As I have said, librarians contend that this is true, yet many of them with opportunities to instruct teachers in these matters lying unused before them, neglect them and coolly step in to usurp one of the school’s functions and rebuke the teacher’s shortcomings.

This is not all. A library gives of its time, money and energy to instruct 40 children–and there it ends. If, on the other hand, it instructs 40 teachers, those 40 carry the instruction to 40 class rooms and impart knowledge of the library, of the use of books, of the literature for children and–if need be–of the art of story-telling, to 1,600 or 2,000 children. There seems no question here as to which of these two forms of educational activity is for librarians better worth while.


The National Child Conference for Research and Welfare was organized at a meeting held at Clark University, Worcester, Mass., in July, 1909. Several papers on library topics were presented at this meeting, one of the most interesting of which was given by Miss Olcott. In this paper she presents the story hour as a method of introducing “large groups of children simultaneously to great literature,” and asserts that “the library story hour becomes, if properly utilized, an educational force as well as a literary guide.”

Frances Jenkins Olcott was born in Paris, France; was educated under private tutors, and was graduated from the New York State Library School in 1896. From 1898 to 1911 she was Chief of the Children’s Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. In 1900 she organized and became the Director of the Training School for Children’s Librarians. Since 1911 Miss Olcott has contributed to library work with children by writing and editing books for parents and for children.

The library is a latter day popular educational development. It supplements the work of the church, the home, the school and the kindergarten. Its function is to place within the reach of all the best thought of the world as conserved in the printed page. This being its natural function, all methods selected by the library should tend directly to arouse interest in the best reading. Methods which do not do this are, for the library, ineffective and a waste of valuable energy and public funds.

The library movement has grown with such startling rapidity that it has not been possible to codify the best methods of library work, but there has been an earnest endeavor to establish a body of library pedagogy by careful experimentation. Unfortunately during this experimental stage methods have been introduced which do not produce direct library results. Many of these methods, which in this paper it is not expedient to enumerate, are interesting and appeal to the imagination; they may impart knowledge, but they are not, strictly speaking, library methods.

As childhood and youth are the times in which to lay the foundation for the habit of reading and of discrimination in reading, it falls to the library worker with children to build up a system of sound library pedagogy leading to the increased intelligent use of the library. The library worker has to deal with large crowds of children of all ages, all classes and nationalities. In a busy children’s room she is rarely able to provide enough assistants to do the necessary routine work and help each individual child select his reading, therefore it becomes necessary for her to direct the children’s reading through large groups and to adapt for this purpose methods used by other educational institutions. But these methods have to be adapted in a practical, forceful way, otherwise they become sentimental and ineffectual. For instance, a method useful in the kindergarten for teaching ethics, in the public schools for teaching geography, science or history, if rightly applied by the public library, may be useful in arousing interest in good books and reading. Such is the story telling method, one of the most effective, if rightly applied, which the public library uses to introduce large groups of children simultaneously to great literature. On the other hand, if the library worker uses story telling merely as a means of inculcating knowledge or teaching ethics, the story fails to produce public library results and the method becomes the weakest of methods, as it absorbs time, physical energy, and library funds which should be expended to increase good reading.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh began systematic story telling to large groups of children in 1899. After a few months a decided change was noted in the children’s reading. The stories were selected from Shakespeare’s plays and there came an increasing demand for books containing the plays, or stories from them. It became evident that if a story was carefully prepared with the intention of arousing interest in reading, it could prove a positive factor in directing the reading of large groups of children. The method was adopted throughout the library system and extended to the various children’s reading rooms, home libraries, playgrounds and city schools. In order to make the story telling effective and systematic, a subject was chosen for each year, stories being told every Friday afternoon in the lecture rooms of the Central and Branch libraries and at varying intervals in the other agencies. Large numbers of duplicates of children’s books containing the stories were purchased and placed on story hour shelves in the children’s rooms. Announcements of the story hours were made in the public schools and notices posted on the bulletins in the children’s reading rooms. The children responded so eagerly that it became almost impossible to handle the large crowds attending weekly and it was quite impossible to supply the demand for the books which, previous to the story hour, had not been popular.

The story hour courses are planned to extend over eight years and are selected from romantic and imaginative literature. For the first two years nursery tales, legends, fables and standard stories are told. For the following years–Stories from Greek Mythology; Stories from Norse Mythology and the Nibelungenlied; Stories of King Arthur and the Round Table, and legends of Charlemagne; Stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey; Stories from Chaucer and Spenser; Stories from Shakespeare. At the end of the eight years the cycle is repeated.

The story hours are conducted most informally. The stories are told, not in the children’s rooms, as this would interfere with the order and discipline of the rooms, but in the study and lecture rooms of the library buildings. As far as possible a group is limited to thirty-six children. When stories are told to children over ten or twelve years of age, the boys and girls are placed in separate groups. This enables the story teller to develop her story to suit the varied tastes of her audience.

The children sit on benches constructed especially for the story hour. The benches are made according to the following measurements: 14 in. from floor to top of seat; seat 12 in. wide; 3 benches 9 ft. long, one bench 7 ft. long. Benches made without backs. Four benches are placed in the form of a hollow square, the story teller sitting with the children. In this way the children are not crowded and the story teller can see all their faces. It is more hygienic and satisfactory than allowing the children to crowd closely about the story teller. The story hour benches are so satisfactory that we are introducing them as fast as possible into all of our library buildings.

Each story is carefully prepared beforehand by the story teller. In the Training School for Children’s Librarians conducted by this Library, all the students are obliged to take the regular course in story telling which includes lectures and weekly practice. Informality in story telling is encouraged. Dramatic or elocutionary expression is avoided, the self-conscious, the elaborate and the artificial are eliminated; we try to follow as closely as possible the spontaneous folk spirit. The children sit breathless, lost in visions created by a sympathetic and un- self-conscious story teller.

In closing I should like to dwell for a moment on what have been called the “by-products” of the Library story hour. Besides guiding his reading, a carefully prepared, well told story enriches a child’s imagination, stocks his mind with poetic imagery and literary allusions, develops his powers of concentration, helps in the unfolding of his ideas of right and wrong, and develops his sympathetic feelings; all of which “by-products” have a powerful influence on character. Thus the library story hour becomes, if properly utilized, an educational force as well as a literary guide.


The possibility of library story telling in schools as a means of interesting a larger number of children than is possible at a story hour held in a library is suggested by Miss Alice A. Blanchard in the following paper, also given at the Conference at Clark University in 1909. Alice Arabella Blanchard was born in Montpelier, Vermont; was graduated from Smith College in 1903; from the New York State Library School in 1905, and was a special student in the Training School for Children’s Librarians in 1905-1906. From 1906 to 1908 she was the head of the children’s department of the Seattle Public Library; in 1909 the head of the school department of the Free Public Library, of Newark, N. J.; from 1910 to 1912 the head of the Schools division of the Seattle Public Library; from 1913 to 1915 the First Assistant in the Children’s Department and the Training School for Children’s Librarians in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and since that time has been supervisor of work with schools and children in the Free Public Library of Newark, N. J.

The subject which the printed programme for this morning’s session assigns to me is How to guide children’s reading by story telling. I must begin my talk by an apology; for I shall speak upon only a limited phase of that subject. The subject of guiding children’s reading by story telling is a pretty broad one. Tell a good story to a child and he wants to read the book from which it comes. This simple statement means that wherever the child is, at home, at school, in the playground, in the library, in Sunday School, in the settlement, we can exercise a very direct influence upon his reading taste by the stories we tell him. Story telling is a most excellent method of advertising the good books of the world. I shall consider it as a means of advertising books from the librarian’s point of view, and treat it simply as a library method, calling it, if you will let me, a library tool.

Story telling is becoming widely popular in schools, in libraries and as a profession by itself. We know that it is an effective method of reaching and influencing children, and that as a method it has advantages over the printed word. Libraries are considering it a part of their work and are using it on a more or less elaborate scale.

It may be too soon, for we have not been using it very long, to know just what place story telling should take in the work of the library; but some of us feel that we are not considering the subject with sufficient care, that we are letting our enthusiasm run away with our common sense in the matter, a little too much in the manner of our friend who has the automobile fever and forgets that life can hold anything else.

It is evident that since no public library ever has enough time and money at its disposal for the work it has to do, it cannot afford to undertake story telling or any other activity which does not further this work. We say that the function of public library work with children is to give them an intelligent love for the best books, and in trying to do this we must reach the greatest number of children at the least expense. If story telling can be an effective tool, enabling us to reach with books more children at less expense than any other method at our command, then it has a legitimate place in library work. If it cannot do this we should let it alone.

Most of us feel that school and libraries have experimented with story telling long enough now to prove that it has its place as a legitimate and valued tool of the library. At the same time we see these facts, however; many libraries do not understand what this place is; many libraries are using story telling as a tool for another’s work at the expense of their own; and some libraries are using story telling when, because of their peculiar situation, another tool would better answer their purpose.

If the library is to use story telling it must be to bring children and books together. This it can do successfully. Library reports show that it has interested thousands of children in the library, increased greatly the general circulation of books from the children’s shelves, and created popularity for the books from which the stories were selected.

Incidentally, the Story Hour makes a delightful form of entertainment, for the average child loves to hear stories told. It also establishes a very pleasant personal relation between the children who hear the story and the person who tells it. Herein lies a danger for the library of which we take too little account. Because she can by her stories so delightfully entertain her audience and thereby win their affection the story-teller is tempted to lose sight of the purpose of her stories, namely, to guide the children’s reading. If she does forget this purpose, her stories, although they may bring the children week after week in throngs, will leave them where they were before, so far as their reading taste is concerned. The fact that the Story Hour makes a delightful form of entertainment, the fact that it establishes a pleasant personal relation between story teller and children, must not be the reason for its adoption by the library. The story teller must tell stories from books which are to be found upon the library shelves and she must tell the children that they are there. Unless the Story Hour advertises the best books, and results in an increased use of them, the library is wasting time and money in its story telling–to put the matter in its most favorable light.

In the second place, many libraries are making the mistake of trying to do too many things with the story telling tool. They forget that the school tells stories, that it can give the child thereby plenty of facts in science, history, geography, and what not; that it teaches him by means of stories, morals and politeness. They forget that the city does not pay them for doing this school work or for doing the work of the playgrounds and parks in keeping children off the streets. Much can be done by the library in all these ways; but it happens that the work which belongs peculiarly to the library and which no other institution can at present do for it, is to give good books to all the children in the city–a task which of itself is enough for any library to hope to do. Therefore we should discard from our story telling all the lessons we are trying to teach, our Christmas tree, our May poles, our fancy costumes and whatever pretty games we play, and simply tell the children stories from books. Fortunately a good story from a book is enough to delight a child without any accompanying frills, so that the time we save by discarding them does not in the least detract from its efficiency.

And we must tell the stories to children. It has been said of one library and, moreover, with some pride, that the story hour was so popular that many grown people came to it; indeed sometimes there was little room left for the children!

Thirdly, the average library does not sufficiently consider whether in its particular case, story telling is the best tool at its command. What is a good tool in one case may not be in another and a given library may be sacrificing much better work when it takes time, as it must always do, from something else for the story hour.

Often a small library has no story teller upon its staff, but it may be doing effective work with children through its work with teachers, its visits to schools and its children’s room. It has a small staff and no room adapted for telling stories at the library. Obviously such a library has no need for the story telling tool, yet many libraries like this are struggling hard to use it. Once a week or oftener they are allowing all the usual routine of the library to be upset to accommodate the Story Hour, the story teller has spent many hours of preparation and is under a strain that is little short of misery, and the children, because of the general difficulty of the whole situation, are deriving no greater love for books nor respect for the library. Such a library would do better to give up story telling and put its energy into what it could do more effectively.

But here let me say that often the small library thinks it has no use for story telling as a tool when as a matter of fact it has.

Children’s librarians in large or small libraries count school visiting as part of their work. The school visit offers the best of opportunities for the work of the Story Hour. A story told at the end of an informal little talk about the library will bring the children flocking to the library the minute school is over. The small library which has no Story Hour room but which has a story teller can take advantage of this opportunity and do much with it. The story teller can visit three schoolrooms on different days, tell stories to forty children each time, and because the story telling is distributed over the three days, manage with comparative ease the influx of 120 children who may come for books as a result. More than this, the story teller can have told three stories instead of one, so that only one-third of the children will clamor for the same book. This last point is important as all who have had story-hour experience know.

And it is not always the small library which might better tell its stories in school. Consider the city library which has a story teller who tells stories at a Branch. She gets crowds of children, it is true, but many more do not come. She has too many for her story room. Even if she repeats her story until all the eager children get in eventually to hear it the results are of doubtful benefit. It has meant a fearfully strenuous day for the story teller and for the whole Branch; the chances are that the last children to hear the tale gained little from it because the story teller was too tired to tell it well; many of the children have spent most of the afternoon in the scuffle of trying to get in and having to wait when they might have been out of doors playing; and practically all the children were the same ones who always come. And, as in a small library, all the children want the same books, if the stories were good.

School people, as a rule, are very cordial to the library story teller. Since they are, this method seems preferable to the Story Hour at the library. The story teller, besides being spared the difficulty of managing the story hour at the library, has a better opportunity to keep in touch with school work; can reach all the children instead of the same group week after week; interests teacher as well as the children in the books from which the stories are told; and saves the library considerable money in janitor work and heat and light bills. Probably the story teller has neither time nor strength to tell stories both in school and library. Would she not be wise in such a case to tell her stories in the schoolroom?

There is another thing that should be said of story telling as a library tool. If we aim by stories to advertise the best books, how shall we tell the stories to make the books seem most attractive and to get the best results?

We say that the impression the child gets from a story told is greater than that gained from a story read. Then we proceed to tell him in our own words stories which we adapt from the books we think he should know, trusting that he will want the books themselves as a result. Well and good for those books which depend for their value upon subject matter, regardless of style; for folk-lore, for many of the fairy tales and other stories, but not equally well and good for books that are valuable for their literary forces. If a story is dramatic enough for the telling and is written by a master, is it not a shame to give it to a child in an inferior form when he might have it as it was written? If a master did it, it is every bit as dramatic and as easy for the child to understand in the form in which the master wrote it as in the story teller’s version, and many times more beautiful.

Why do children’s librarians spend so much time in the preparation of their own versions of the good stories of the world when they have so much material which they can use at first hand? The theory is, that a story has more life if told in the story teller’s words, that it is likely to be stiff and formal if she must confine herself to the author’s words. This need not be so. If the story teller enjoys the story, as a story teller always must, if she appreciates the charm of its expression as the author wrote it, and sees the value of this charm, the author’s words will come easily from her lips with all the life of the original. She may have had to cut the original more or less, but that can usually be done without perceptibly marring the story. If the tale does not lend itself to this kind of treatment and she feels that she must adapt the whole thing for her audience, she can at least quote paragraphs. If the story teller gives the child her own version, the child wants the story because or in spite of what she put into it. He gets the book, fails to find the story teller part of it and, as that is all he is after puts the book down or finds the real thing and thinks the teller didn’t know it very well, for “She left out some of the best parts.”

I am not saying that the story teller’s version is worthless. It is good as far as it goes. I am only saying that by it we often miss an opportunity to give the children something better. None of us can tell the Andersen or the Kipling stories as well as the men who wrote them. Why not give them to the children “straight out of the book,” as the children say, and why not, for instance, when we are telling stories of the Trojan War, give them passages verbatim from Bryant’s Iliad? This kind of story telling may take more time for preparation than the other for some people, it is true, but the resulting benefit is greater. The librarian who has once told an Andersen story in the words of a close translation will never want to do it in her own again.

In spite of all we say about giving him the best books, are we not giving the child too little credit for literary appreciation? Are not some of our simplified versions of the good stories of the world a little too simple? We refuse to leave upon our shelves such foolish things as the Hiawatha primer, or the Stevenson reader (this gives upon one page a poem from the child’s garden and on the opposite page a neat translation!), and yet do we not offend sometimes in the same way in our story telling? Let us not run the risk of spoiling the atmosphere and beauty of a good tale by over-adapting it. If it is beyond the child’s comprehension in the beginning, let us leave it for him to find when he is older. If our library story telling has been what it should be, the road will be an easy one for him to follow.


Story-telling in playgrounds, settlements and libraries as it is carried on in various communities, is described in the following comprehensive report which was made by the Committee on story-telling, Miss Annie Carroll Moore, Chairman, at the Fourth Annual Congress of the Playground Association of America. It was printed in the Playground, August, 1910, and an abridgement appeared in the Library Journal (September, 1910). A sketch of Miss Moore appears on page 113.

“Is she a Fairy, or just a Lady?”

A little Scotch girl asked the question after a story hour in a children’s library. “She made me see fairies awful plain.”

“She made me see fairies, too,” answered the children’s librarian with whom the child had shared her doubt. “Let’s go and find her and make sure.”

On the way they spoke of the story they had both liked best. It was about an old woman who lived long ago in Devonshire, who loved tulips and planted her garden full of them, and tended them with great care because they seemed to her so beautiful. After the old woman died some extremely practical persons came to live in her house and they considered it very foolish to grow tulips for their beauty when the garden might be turned to practical account. So they dug up the garden and analyzed the soil, and planted carrots and turnips and parsnips and just such vegetables as promised to yield speedy and profitable returns.

By and by a wonderful thing happened. Tulips no longer grew in the garden; there was no room for them and nobody had time to look after such useless things. But on the spot where the old woman was buried the most beautiful tulips sprang up of themselves, and every night in the Springtime the faries may be seen bringing their babies to rock them to sleep in the tulip bells.

The little Scotch girl wondered whether there was “a book in the library with the tulip story in.” She wanted to read it to her grandmother, she said, because her grandmother was “always speaking about her garden in Scotland,” and she wondered if the tulips in Scotland had fairies asleep in them.

The storyteller, who was Miss Marie L. Shedlock, looked wonderfully happy when asked whether she was a “Fairy” or “just a Lady.” She said she supposed she was really “just a Lady,” but she had become so intimate with fairies through listening to stories about them, and thinking about them, and telling fairy tales to children and grown people in England and America, that she felt almost like a fairy at times, and she had come to believe with Hans Christian Andersen, whose stories she loved best of all, that life itself is a beautiful fairy tale.

Then she told the little girl that the tulip story was not in a book, and that she must tell it to her grandmother just as she remembered hearing it, and that having seen the fairies while she listened would help her to remember the story better. She could see pictures all the time she was telling stories, she said. The little girl had never thought of making pictures for herself before. She had only seen them in books and hanging on walls.

This unconscious tribute to the art of the storyteller made a lasting impression on the children’s librarian. If a child of less than eight years, and of no exceptional parts, could so clearly discriminate between the fairy tale she had heard at school and the tale that made her “see the fairies,” there was little truth in the statement that children do not appreciate artistic storytelling. She went back to her children’s room feeling that something worth while had happened. The children who had listened to the stories now crowded about the book shelves, eager for “any book about fairies,” “a funny book,” or “a book about animals.”

The little girl who had seen the fairies was not the only one who had fallen under the spell of the storyteller. “I always knew Pandora was a nice story, but she never seemed like a live girl before,” said one of the older girls. “I liked the Brahmin, the Jackal and the Tiger best,” exclaimed a boy. “Gee! but couldn’t you just see that tiger pace when she was saying the words?” “I just love The Little Tin Soldier,” said a small boy who hated to read, but was always begging the children’s librarian to tell him stories about the pictures he found in books. “Didn’t she make him march fine!”

Before the end of the day the children’s librarian had decided that even if there could be but one such story hour in the lifetime of an individual or an institution it would pay in immediate and far-off results. But why stop with one; why not have more story hours in children’s libraries? Other children’s librarians were asking themselves the same question, and then they asked their librarians, and those who recognized in the story hour a powerful ally in stimulating a love of good literature and a civilizing influence wherever the gang spirit prevailed, gave ready assent.

Ten years have passed and the story hour is now an established feature in the work of children’s libraries. Miss Shedlock came to America to tell stories to children and to their fathers and mothers. She returned year after year to remind the schools and colleges, the training schools and the kindergartens, as well as the public libraries, of the great possibilities in what she so aptly called “the oldest and the newest of the arts.”

In her lectures upon “The Art of Storytelling;” “The Fun and the Philosophy; The Poetry and the Pathos of Hans Christian Andersen,” and in the stories she told to illustrate them, Miss Shedlock exemplified that teaching of Socrates, which represents him as saying: “All my good is magnetic, and I educate not by lessons but by going about my daily business.” The story as a mere beast of burden for conveying information or so-called moral or ethical instruction was relieved of its load. The play spirit in literature which is the birthright of every child of every nation was set free. Her interpretation of the delicate satire and the wealth of imagery revealed in the tales of that great child in literature, Hans Christian Andersen, has been at once an inspiration and a restraining influence to many who are now telling stories to children, and to others who have aided in the establishing of storytelling. It is now three years since Miss Shedlock was recalled to England by the London County Council to bring back to the teachers of London the inspirational value of literature she had taken over to America.

Interest in storytelling has become widespread, reaching a civic development beyond the dreams of its most ardent advocates when a professional storyteller and teacher of literature was engaged to tell stories to children in the field houses of the public recreation centers of Chicago. Mrs. Gudrun Thorne- Thomsen has been known for some years in this country as a storyteller of great power in the field of her inheritance, Scandinavian literature. It is very largely due to her work that the city of Chicago has been roused to claim the public library privileges so long denied to her children, and to make the claim from a point that plants the love of literature in the midst of the recreational life of a great city.

No one who was present at those meetings of the New York Playground Congress, conducted by Miss Maud Summers, will ever forget her eloquent appeal for a full recognition of the value of storytelling as a definite activity of the playground. She saw its kinship to the folk dance and the folk song in the effort to preserve the traditions of his country to the foreign-born child. And she saw the relation of the story to the games, the athletics, and the dramatics. More clearly than anything else, perhaps, she saw the value of the story in its direct appeal to the spiritual nature of the child. Miss Summers’ interest and enthusiasm made the work of the present committee possible. As one of her associates, its chairman pays grateful tribute to her memory and links her name with a work to which she gave herself so freely in life, that her death seems but the opening of another door through which we look with full hope and confidence upon childhood as “a real and indestructible part of human life.”

There is a line of Juvenal that bids the old remember the respect due to the young. It is in that attitude, and with some appreciation of what it means to be a growing boy or girl of the present time, that the subject of this report has been approached and is now presented for the consideration of the Playground Association of America. We know only too well that we cannot give to childhood in great cities the simple and lovely ways we associate with childhood. We CAN give to it a wonderful fortification against the materialism and the sensationalism of daily life on the streets, against the deadly monotony of the struggle for existence, by a revival of the folk spirit in story, as well as in song and in dance, that will not spend its strength in mere pageantry, but will sink deep into our national consciousness.

It should be clearly stated that the field of storytelling, investigated, relates to children above the kindergarten age and to boys and girls in their teens. The investigation lays no claim to completeness and has not included storytelling in public nor in private schools.

An outline covering the main points of this report was sent to representative workers in thirteen different cities, to several persons professionally engaged in storytelling, and to other persons whose critical judgment was valued in such connection. The outline called–First, for a statement of the extent to which storytelling is being carried on in playgrounds, public libraries, settlements, and such other institutions, exclusive of schools, as might come to the notice of the members of the committee. Second, for information concerning the persons who are telling stories, whether their entire time is given to storytelling and preparation for it; whether it forms a part of the regular duties of a director or an assistant; and, finally, whether volunteer workers are engaged in storytelling.

Replies to these inquiries with a brief statement of results have been grouped by cities,[3] as follows:

[3] Owing to space limitations, in general the formal reports from cities represented in the discussion are omitted in the body of the report.


Storytelling in the playgrounds is under the direction of a special teacher appointed in 1909. The teacher of storytelling works in co-operation with the teachers of dramatics and of folk dancing. The visits of the special teacher added interest and novelty, but it is felt that every playground teacher should be able to tell stories effectively. Storytelling, therefore, is considered a part of the daily work of the playground assistant.

In the Boston Public Library, storytelling is not organized as a definite feature of work with children, but has been employed occasionally in some branch libraries, regularly in others, by varying methods. It is regarded as markedly successful in districts where library assistants are closely identified with the work of the neighborhood. Co-operation with settlements in which storytelling has been carried on for some years has been very successful. Rooms have been furnished by the library; the settlements, and sometimes the normal schools, have provided storytellers. The work of a settlement leader with a large group of boys was especially interesting one winter, as he told continued stories from such books as “Treasure Island” and “The Last of the Mohicans.”

In the sixty home libraries conducted by The Children’s Aid Society, storytelling and games are carried on by regular and volunteer visitors on the days when books are exchanged. (For full information concerning home libraries refer to Mr. Charles W. Birtwell of The Children’s Aid Society, Boston, with whom this work originated.)

Settlements and libraries report great improvement in the quality of reading done by the children as well as keen appreciation and enjoyment of the stories to which they have listened. They remember and refer to stories told them several years ago.


In the children’s room of the Pratt Institute Free Library, storytelling and reading aloud have had a natural place since the opening of the new library building in 1896. Years before this library was built the lot on which it stands was appropriated as a playground by the children of the neighborhood–a neighborhood that has been gradually transformed by the life of the institution which is the center of interest. The recognition of the necessity for play and the value of providing a place for it– children now play freely in the park on the library grounds– exercised a marked influence on the conception of work to be done by this children’s library and upon its subsequent development.

The children’s librarian was never allowed to forget that the trustees had been boys in that very neighborhood and remembered how boys felt. It was evident from the outset, that the children’s room was to be made of living interest to boys and girls who were very much alive to other things than books. Probably more suggestions were gained from looking out of windows, and from walks in the neighborhood and beyond it, than from any other sources.

Fourteen years ago there were no other public libraries with rooms for children, in Brooklyn; and boys frequently walked from two to five miles to visit this one. During the past six years a weekly story hour with a well-defined program based upon the varied interests of boys and girls of different ages has been conducted from October to May of each year.

The children’s librarian plans for the story hour, and does much of the storytelling herself; but from time to time some one from the outside world is invited to come and tell stories in order to give the children a change, and to give breadth and balance to the library’s outlook upon the story interests of boys and girls. Listening as one of the group has greatly strengthened the feeling of comradeship between children’s librarian and children, and the stories have been enjoyed more keenly than as if one person had told them all.

The evening on which Mr. Dan Beard told “Bear Stories” is still remembered, and another evening is associated with the old hero tales of Japan told by a Japanese, who was claimed by the boys as one of themselves, and known thereafter as “The Japanese Boy.” Pure enjoyment of such a story hour by children whose homes offered nothing in place of it already gives assurance of results rich in memories and associations, since men and women who were coming fourteen years ago as children are now bringing THEIR children to look at picture books.


The institutions in connection with which storytelling is carried on are: The Chicago Public Library, the municipal parks and playgrounds, social settlements, vacation schools, institutional churches, hospitals, and the United Charities. The private organizations supporting the storytelling movement financially, by the employment of special storytellers, are: The Library Extension Story Hour Committee, the Permanent School Extension Committee, the Library Committee, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and various women’s clubs of Chicago.

A league has been formed of those who are telling stories under the auspices of the public library. The league holds meetings once a month for the purpose of upholding the standard of story work and to strengthen the co-operation with the library. Stories from Scandinavian literature, and stories of patriotism related to the different nationalities represented in the story hour groups, have been notably successful in Chicago.

The following statements are made by (1) Mr. E. B. De Groot, director of the playgrounds and field houses. “I think that the story hour is the only passive occupation that should be given an equal place with the active occupations. I see in the story hour, not only splendid possibilities but a logical factor in the comprehensive playground scheme. The place of the story hour, I believe, is definite and comparable with any first choice activity. It is unfortunate that we are unable to secure as playground teachers, at the present time, good story hour men and women.”

(2) Mr. Henry E. Legler, Librarian of the Chicago Public Library: “We are now engaged in developing the branch library system of the city, and no doubt storytelling will be made incidentally a feature of the work planned for the children’s rooms. This work must be done by the children’s librarians, the storytelling growing out of library work and merging into it in order that its most effective side be legitimately developed.” (Mr. Legler states his views with regard to storytelling and other features of work for children in an article entitled “The Chicago Public Library and Co-operation with the Schools.” Educational Bi-Monthly, April, 1910).

(3) Mrs. Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen: “As to the future of the movement I believe the purposes are best served by the storyteller being an integral member of the organization she serves. I believe that if the organizations which express themselves so sympathetic toward the work would co-operate and give definite instruction in storytelling to their workers, and also give them a fair amount of supervision and direction, the whole movement might be placed on a dignified and wholesome basis.”


Storytelling has been carried on in the playgrounds and summer schools for several years. Since 1907 the work of playground leaders has been supplemented by storytelling done by public library assistants who visit the playgrounds by invitation, and who are scheduled for this work as a part of their regular library duties.

In the Cleveland Public Library storytelling and reading clubs have been widely developed under the guidance of the director of work with children. In each of the branch libraries two story hours a week are usually held. Storytelling is regarded as a part of the equipment of the children’s librarian, and time is allowed from the weekly schedule for the preparation of stories.

Definite neighborhood co-operation is the aim of each branch library. Storytelling visits are therefore made to the public schools, social settlements, day nurseries, mission schools, and other institutions of a neighborhood. Requests for such visits are more numerous than can be supplied.

Storytelling in the settlements is done by club leaders and volunteer workers mainly in connection with club work. Stories were told last season in the children’s gardens connected with the social settlement by an assistant from The Home Gardening Association.

Positive results of the effect of storytelling in the Cleveland Public Library are shown in the favorable direction of the reading of large numbers of children by a strong appeal to their spontaneous interests, and by the many requests for library storytellers. The total number of children who listened to stories told by library assistants in 1909 was 80,996. The Cleveland Public Library publishes an illustrated “Handbook” containing a full account of its storytelling and club work.


One playground has been opened in the Borough of Queens. Storytelling was introduced into the branches of the public library in 1908 and was at first carried on entirely by the supervisor of work with children as a means of putting herself in touch with the children and library assistants. An experience of some years at the head of the children’s department in the public library of Portland, Oregon, had given her a full sense of the social opportunities presented in telling stories.

The branch libraries of Queens Borough are situated chiefly in separate towns and at seaside resorts. The children in some of these communities are inclined to be lethargic and lacking in initiative; or, the commercial instinct is abnormally developed in them. Habits of visiting a library for pleasure had not been established except in the case of older girls and boys who regarded it as a meeting place.

Girls whose reading was as flippant and as vulgar as their conduct on the streets have become interested members of “A Girl’s Romance Club.” Stories appealing to their love of romance have been told and books have been familiarly discussed with them. Library assistants as well as the supervisor of children’s work now hold weekly story hours. There has been a great improvement in the quality and extent of the reading done by the children. Storytelling visits have been made to public schools and to the Jewish Home for Crippled Children. A library storyteller is sent to the playground opened in Flushing in 1910.


Storytelling in the playgrounds of New York City is considered an important feature of the work of playground assistants wherever the conditions are favorable to carrying it on.

In the Parks and Playgrounds Association the leader of the Guild of Play tells stories herself and is supplemented by regular assistants and volunteer workers with whom she holds conferences on storytelling. The work of the Guild of Play is extended to hospitals for Crippled Children, to homes for Destitute Children and to settlements. (See Handbook and Report of Parks and Playgrounds Association.)

In the playgrounds and vacation schools maintained by the Board of Education, storytelling is carried on by the supervisors and assistants. The Nurses’ Settlement, Greenwich House, Union Settlement, Hartley House, and Corning-Clark House, report weekly story hours, frequently held on Sunday afternoons. Storytelling is carried on in other settlements and by several church houses, St. Bartholomew’s Parish House reporting a well attended story hour following a mid-week church service.

In the New York Public Library, storytelling, under the general direction of the supervisor of work with children, is in special charge of a library assistant who has been a student of dramatic art as well as of library science. Storytelling is not required of library assistants. Any assistant who wants to tell stories is given an opportunity to do so and to profit by criticism. Her trial experience is made with a group of children. If she proves her ability to hold their interest, she is then allowed to make up her own program for a series of story hours, basing it upon her spontaneous interests, her previous reading, and the special needs of the library where the story hour is to be held. The fact that storytelling has been regarded as a potent factor in the unification of work with children in the rural districts, as well as in the congested centers, where branch libraries are situated, has greatly influenced the present organization of the work.

Racial interests have been considered, and on such festival days as are observed by the Hungarians, the Bohemians, and the Irish, special story hours have been held. In each case a volunteer storyteller of the nationality concerned lent interest to the occasion.

Weekly story hours are now held in most of the branch libraries. In some of them, two or more story hours are held. Story hours in roof reading-rooms are held irregularly during the summer.

Marked results of storytelling after three years are shown by a very great improvement in the character of the recreational reading done by the children, and in their sense of pleasure in the children’s room.

The keen enjoyment of the library assistants who have been telling stories, and the interest of other workers in the library, indicates a valuable contribution to the work, by bringing its people together in their conception of what the library is trying to do for children.

Repeated requests for library storytellers have been received from institutions for the Blind, the Deaf Mutes, the Insane, from Reformatory institutions, as well as from settlements, church houses, public and private schools, parents’ meetings, and industrial schools.

Three branches of The National Storytellers’ League hold meetings in New York City. (A full account of the National Storytellers’ League is given by its founder Richard T. Wyche, in the Pedagogical Seminary, volume 16.) Courses in storytelling are given at several schools and colleges, at The Summer School of Philanthropy, and at The National Training School for Young Women’s Christian Associations.


Storytelling in the Pittsburgh playgrounds has a unique organization in that it is entirely under the direction of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. All storytelling in the playgrounds is done by Children’s librarians or by students of The Training School for Children’s Librarians on the days books are exchanged.

The organized story hour, developed as a direct method of guiding the reading of children, originated with this library and has been carried on in connection with home library groups as well as in the branch libraries, the public schools, the playgrounds, and the social settlements of Pittsburgh, for a period of eleven years.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh issues printed lists of the stories used and a pamphlet entitled “Storytelling–a Public Library Method” by Miss Frances Jenkins Olcott, Chief of the Children’s Department and Director of the Training School for Children’s Librarians.


In the playgrounds one regularly employed storyteller, who also assists in directing the games, tells stories throughout the season. Storytelling is also carried on by playground assistants and by volunteer storytellers. The interest shown by parents who frequently join the story hour groups in the parks, is considered a significant gain in sustaining neighborhood interest in the playground.

In one settlement house, the head worker meets the storytellers at the beginning of the season and plans and directs the work for the entire year.

Storytelling in the St. Louis Public Library has been carried on for several years by children’s librarians of branch libraries who have visited playgrounds, settlements, and public schools, as visiting storytellers, and have told stories at mothers’ clubs and teachers’ meetings. Since February, 1910, it has been under the direction of the supervisor of work with children, who was formerly one of the visiting storytellers and assistants to the supervisor of work with children in the New York Public Library. Storytelling is regarded by her as a valuable aid in the unification of the work with children in a system of libraries.


The reports received represent only a small part of the storytelling that is being done in different parts of the country.

In New Jersey, the organizer of the State Library Commission has found her ability to tell stories and to choose books containing a direct appeal to the people who are to read them, or to listen to the reading of them, an open sesame in the pine woods districts, the farming communities, and the fishing villages, where grown people listen as eagerly as children. In a paper entitled, “The Place, the Man, and the Book,” Miss Sarah B. Askew gives a vivid picture of the establishment of a library in a fishing village. (Proceedings of the American Library Association. 1908.)[4]

[4] Reprinted as a pamphlet by The H. W. Wilson Company.

Recognizing a similar need for the interpretation of books to the communities where libraries had already been established, the Iowa Library Commission appointed in 1909 an advisory children’s librarian, who is also a professional storyteller and lecturer upon children’s literature.

In the Public Lecture courses of New York City, it has been found that storytelling programs composed of folk tales draw large audiences of grown people who enjoy the stories quite as much as do the children.

In various institutions for adults as well as for children, where the library has been a mere collection of books that counted for little or nothing in the daily life of the institution, storytelling is making the books of living interest, and is giving to children, and to grown men and women, new sources of pleasure by taking them out of themselves and beyond the limitations of a prescribed and monotonous existence. Just as the games and folk dances are making their contribution to institutional life, so storytelling is bringing the play spirit in literature to those whose imaginations have been starved by long years of neglect, and is showing that what is needed is not an occasional entertainment, but the joy of possessing literature itself.

Professional storytellers who have recently visited towns and cities of the Pacific Coast, the Middle-Western, the Southern, and the Eastern States, not covered by this report, bear testimony to an interest in storytelling that seems to be as genuine as it is widespread. It is apparent that more thought is being given to the subject than ever before. Wherever storytelling has been introduced by a “born storyteller” who has succeeded in kindling sparks of local talent capable of sustaining interest and accomplishing results, storytelling is bound to be a success. All reports testify to the need of a well defined plan for storytelling related to the purpose and the aims of the institution which undertakes it, and to the varying capacities and temperaments of the persons who are to carry it on.


The professional storyteller has played a large part in the successful establishment of storytelling, and is destined to play a still larger part in the future development of the work in playgrounds and other institutions, by raising the standards of the playground library, or settlement worker, who is expected to tell stories. This she will do not by elaborating methods and artifices to be imitated, but by frank criticism of native ability, by inspiring courses in story literature, and by proper training of the much neglected speaking voice.

The sooner we cease to believe that “anybody can tell a story” the better for storytelling in every institution undertaking it. A candidate for a given position may be required to have storytelling ability, but no assistant should be required to tell stories as a part of her duties unless she can interest a group of children who have voluntarily come to listen to her stories. Repeating simplified versions of stories is not storytelling. Exercises in memorizing may be as helpful to the storyteller as the practice of scales to the piano player, but neither is to be regarded as a source of pleasure to the listener. Listening as one of a group is a valuable experience in the training of an assistant who is telling stories in the playground, the library, or the settlement. Herein lies the advantage of a visiting storyteller who does not take the place of the playground or library assistant, but who enlivens the program for the children and makes it possible for the regular assistant to listen occasionally and to profit by the experience. (The professional listener is delightfully characterized in “Miss Muffet’s Christmas Party,” by Dr. Samuel McChord Crothers.)


The outline sent to the members of the Committee on Storytelling called for the mention of specific stories and for personal experience in group formation, taking into account age and sex, time and place, and for a statement of results, in so far as such results could be stated. From five hundred different stories mentioned a composite list of “Fifty Stories for the Playground” has been made. This list is chiefly composed of fairy and folk tales, Indian legends, and animal stories, as making the strongest appeal to playground groups and to library groups unaccustomed to listening to stories.

It also represents the story literature most easily commanded by the storyteller who has not read widely. Stories from the Norse and Greek Mythology, from the Niebelungen Lied, the Arthurian legends, and from Robin Hood; stories of Roland and of Charlemagne; stories from the Faerie Queene, and from the Canterbury Tales; historical and biographical stories are generously represented in the five hundred titles, but such stories should not be attempted without sufficient reading and feeling for the subject to enable the storyteller to bring it vividly and naturally before such a group as she is likely to meet in her daily experience.

Satisfactory festival stories are reported as exceedingly difficult to find. Several stories growing out of personal experiences, such as a “Christmas in Germany,” a “May Day in England,” “Fourth of July in the Garden of Warwick Castle,” (The Warwick Pageant of 1900) are mentioned. Atmosphere and festival spirit are often lacking in stories listed under Festivals and Holidays.

Poetry and verses are repeated or read at many of the library story hours. Lear’s nonsense rhymes and certain rhythmical story poems are especially enjoyed by the children. Outlines of stories or selections from books designed to lead to the reading of an entire book are mentioned in connection with Dickens, Kipling, Stevenson, Scott, Victor Hugo, and other authors.

In addition to the list of “Fifty Stories for the Playground” a list of “Books to Read on the Playground” has been prepared. Nearly all of the public libraries mentioned in the report send books to playgrounds when the playgrounds desire it. The use of books in the roof reading-rooms of libraries is very similar to their use in the playgrounds. Here and in children’s reading-rooms boys and girls are free to choose the books they really want to read. In his book entitled “The American Public Library,” Dr. Arthur E. Bostwick makes this statement: “There are no intellectual joys equal to those of discovery. The boy or girl who stumbles on one of the world’s masterpieces without knowing what anyone else thinks or has thought about it, and reading it, admires and loves it, will have that book throughout life as a peculiar intellectual possession in a way that would have been impossible if someone had advised reading it and had described it as a masterpiece. The very fact that one is advised to read a book because one ought to do so is apt to arouse the same feeling of repulsion that caused the Athenian citizen to vote for the banishment of Aristides just because he had grown so weary of hearing him always called ‘The Just.’ “


Groups for storytelling are usually assembled in separate rooms in the libraries and are made up by an approximate but variable age limit, dividing the children under ten or eleven years old from the boys and girls above that age. In the settlements the group is usually determined by the club organization. On the playgrounds, the experience of a storyteller in Providence is probably typical of many other workers and is quoted as suggestive for group formation in playgrounds.

“During the summer of 1909 the stories I told on the Davis Park Playground were costly fairy tales and folk stories. ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ was the favorite of both boys and girls and through the summer I told every story in the book. The boys also liked ‘The Merrie Adventures of Robin Hood,’ ‘The Three Golden Apples,’ ‘The Golden Touch,’ ‘The Golden Fleece,’ and all the old Indian legends. While the girls, if offered a choice, always called for a fairy tale with a Prince Charming in it. Neither boys nor girls would listen to historical stories saying they were too much like school.

“The first day to gain an audience I went up to a group of children who were playing together and asked them if they would like to hear a story. Four or five replied that they would, while some fifteen or twenty disappeared as though by magic, and I decided that they were not interested. I then took the children who wished to listen, over to a large tree in one corner of the grounds, and told them that for the rest of the summer that tree would be known as ‘the storytelling tree.’ They would, I told them, find me there every day promptly at half-past one, and that I would tell stories for a half hour to the whole playground. Then from half-past two until three I would tell stories to the older girls. The first day I had a very small audience, the next day it doubled, and then increased daily until I had from eighty to a hundred children in a group. As to forming a group, I think it is impossible in playground work, for a group worth having must form itself, the reputation of the storyteller being the foundation of its formation, and this reputation can only be gained through constant systematic labor, and a thorough knowledge of your daily audience. That is why I think a professional visiting storyteller would be a failure in playground work, as in visiting each playground once or twice a week it would be impossible for her to gain that intimate personal knowledge of her audience, which is so necessary to the playground storyteller, as she must appeal to a different class of children on each playground.

“The experience of a professional storyteller with a group of boys, already assembled as a club, is also quoted for its valuable suggestion and independence of method in gaining the interest of boys who had been much experimented upon.

“The most interesting experience I have had in a developed series of stories was with the Boys’ Club of Greenwich, Connecticut, last year. The club is supported by the wealthy women of the place, and is an outgrowth of a rather serious and perplexing boy problem. A number of picture shows, pool rooms, cheap vaudevilles, etc., have crept into the town, and life on the street is most attractive.

“The head worker of the club wrote that they had failed to hold the boys in everything but manual training and baseball; that the boys were insubordinate and unresponsive, and that their school reports were very poor. I found the conditions even worse than I had anticipated. It was necessary to train eighty boys to listen, as well as to interest them, and so, I told very short stories at first. I chose the ones that were full of dramatic action, that had little or no description, and a good deal of dialogue. The stories were strongly contrasted, and there was no attempt at literary or artistic finish. I used a great many gestures and moved about on the platform frequently; it is the quickest way of focusing laggard attention. To be absolutely honest, I had to come very close to the level of the moving picture show, and the ten-cent vaudeville, at first.

“The fourth night I eliminated all but a few gestures, and told the stories sitting down. I also used less colloquial English; and from then on, until the end, when I told the stories from Van Dyke in his own words, there was a steady growth in literary style. I append the programs in the order they were given:


1. Irish Folk-tales. 2. Stories from Scandinavian Myths. 3. The Rhinegold Stories. 4. German Folk-tales. 5. Arthurian Tales. 6. Stories of Charlemagne and Frederick Barbarossa. 7. Tales of American Indians. 8. Negro Tales. 9. Stories of the Carnegie Heroes. 10. Kipling–Captains Courageous, Jungle Stories. 11. Van Dyke–A Friend of Justice, The Keeper of the Light. 12. Irish Folk-tales (Requested).

“The practical results were very satisfactory. The books in the club library were used more, the boys’ composition and recitation work at school improved, and they acquired the habit of polite, attentive listening.”


The importance of a definite time and place for the story hour, for a prompt beginning and for an ending before it becomes tedious, cannot be too strongly urged. The storyteller should “size up” the conditions and suit the story hour to them. If she is simple, natural and unaffected, and sufficiently resourceful to vary her program to suit the interests of the children, the story hour will be successful.

Various practical forms of co-operation have been suggested, notably in the visits of library storytellers to playgrounds wherever the public library is actively interested in storytelling, and such visits are desired by the playground.

The story hour season in most libraries ends in April, making it possible in some libraries to release assistants once or twice a week to visit playgrounds. The benefit derived from such visits is mutually endorsed by playground and library assistants.

Conferences of groups of workers interested in storytelling, under the leadership of a professional storyteller, who also understands the practical conditions and limitations under which the playground and library assistants do their work have proved stimulating and suggestive in a number of places. Volunteer workers who have the ability to tell stories and who can so adapt themselves to their surroundings as to make their story hours effective, can do much for storytelling. This is especially true of men who have had actual experience of the life from which their stories are taken and can make these experiences of absorbing interest to their listeners.

In conclusion, the committee recommends that wherever practicable, storytelling in playgrounds be placed under a leadership corresponding to that now given to games and to folk dancing. That a clear distinction be preserved between storytelling and dramatics, as differentiated, though closely related, activities of the playground and the settlement. That the story hour be valued as a rest period; for its natural training in the power of concentration, and in that deeper power of contemplation of ideal forms in literature and in life. That storytelling in settlements be more widely developed as a feature of social work worthy of a careful plan and of sustained effort. That storytelling in libraries be made more largely contributory to storytelling in other institutions by a thoughtful and discriminating study of story literature, and by effective means of placing such literature in the hands of those who desire to use it.

The committee also suggests that the subject of storytelling is