History of Preschool Storytimes

Reading aloud to children, or offering storytimes, came with the development of the children's library itself, around the turn of the 20th century. Anne Carroll Moore at the Pratt Institute Free Library had introduced a story hour at the Pratt Institute as early as 1896, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh started a weekly story hour in 1900 under Francis Jenkins Olcott. Caroline Burnite, connected with both of these institutions, was appointed Director of Children's Work at the Cleveland Public Library in 1904 and very intentionally encouraged storytelling at the library's various branches, including having "a nursery tale story hour for the very little ones on Saturday morning" at the Broadway branch, which opened in 1906.

This information is laid out in great detail in the 1969 Scarecrow Press publication, Public Library Service to Children: Foundation and Development, by Harriet G. Long.

As for children's libraries in general, according to both Elizabeth W. Stone (American Library Development, 1600-1899; New York, H.W. Wilson, 1977) and Wayne A. Wiegand and Donald G. Davis, Jr. (Encyclopedia of Library History; New York, Garland, 1994), the first collection of children's books in a library was begun in 1803 when Caleb Bingham bequeathed a collection of 150 books suitable for children to the library in Salisbury, Connecticut.

The establishment of a separate section for children within a library, however, occurred much later. The dates given include: 1887: a separate children's area in the Pawtucket (R.I.) Public Library with specially designed tables and open shelving 1891: Brookline (Mass.) Public Library opened a separate reading room 1893: Minneapolis Public Library set up a circulation desk with a special attendant 1894: Denver and Cambridge (Mass.) public libraries set up children's rooms

Also according to Harriet G. Long (Public Library Service to Children: Foundation and Development; Scarecrow, 1969), much development occurred between annual surveys conducted by Caroline M. Hewins beginning in 1882. In 1893, of 146 libraries responding, 5 were about to have a special assistant for children.

Fannette H. Thomas wrote her dissertation, "The Genesis of children's Services in the American Public Library, 1875-1906," on this topic (University of Wisconsin, 1982).

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy. Crash Course in Library Services to Preschool Children. Santa Barbara, Calif: Libraries Unlimited, 2010.

Bane, Rebecca C. Let's Pretend: 50 Start-to-Finish Preschooler Programs for the Busy Librarian That Foster Imagination. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2010.

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The practice of offering storytimes for preschool-aged children began with the development of children's libraries around the turn of the 20th century. Anne Carroll Moore introduced a story hour at the Pratt Institute Free Library as early as 1896, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh started a weekly story hour in 1900. Caroline Burnite, who was connected with both of these institutions, encouraged storytelling at the Cleveland Public Library's various branches in 1904, including a nursery tale story hour for very young children on Saturday mornings at the Broadway branch. The first collection of children's books in a library was started in 1803 when Caleb Bingham bequeathed a collection of 150 books suitable for children to the library in Salisbury, Connecticut. The establishment of a separate section for children within a library occurred much later. The dates for the first separate children's areas and reading rooms include 1887 for Pawtucket (R.I.) Public Library, 1891 for Brookline (Mass.) Public Library, 1893 for Minneapolis Public Library, and 1894 for Denver and Cambridge (Mass.) public libraries. Much development occurred between annual surveys conducted by Caroline M. Hewins beginning in 1882. In 1893, of 146 libraries responding, only 5 were about to have a special assistant for children.  https://cincinnatiseo.org/

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