All Their Ways are Helping Ways: Stories from the History of Madison Public Library

10. The Little Folk: "Tell a Dirty One!"

"When I was eight, I decided the most wonderful thing, next to a human being, was a book." - Margaret Walker, author

As I approached the Children's Room in the Central Library on September 8, 2000, a familiar poster of a smiling clown taped on the door leading into the room greeted me. Between its large feet, the clown was holding "The Riddle of the Week." The riddle read, "Why doesn't corn like the farmer?"

Next to the clown, there was another sign that explained that the riddle of the week was "From Caitlin- Age 7." To find the answer to the riddle, I entered the Children's Room and went to the box on top of the librarian's desk, where the answer to the riddle was located: "Because he pulls out its ears." Groaning at Caitlin's pun, I was struck by the cleverness of having children approach the librarian's desk in this fashion. The implicit first message to the child was that this was a place where your mind will be challenged and you’ll have fun too. Welcome, enter, learn, and enjoy.

Librarians from the Madison Public Library have shared a remarkable continuity in their determination of what is important to offer children in the library. Within the first decade of the opening of the Children's Room in 1902, the library had established an approach to children's services that has continued and been expanded upon into the twenty-first century. Story hours first were offered in 1903 and still are offered today. Meetings of mothers were convened beginning with the opening of the Children's Room and outreach efforts to parents remain a part of the library's mission. Book-related events for children were organized during those early days and continue to occur regularly. Rewards designed to lure children into the library have been offered throughout the history of youth services. Children's librarians have actively shared their expertise and resources with community schools from the early 1900s through the present. The vision of "putting the right book into the hands of the right child" has guided the planning of MPL services for children for nearly a century. The stories that follow highlight MPL's dogged commitment to make children motivated and competent readers.

The First Children's Room at the Library: "The Right Book into the Hands of the Right Child at the Right Time"

"The whole world opened to me when I learned to read." - Mary McCleod Bethune, educator

Early Children's RoomDuring the early nineteenth century, public libraries serving children existed primarily as a result of gifts from wealthy individuals. The earliest known library was the Bingham Library for Youth, which was founded in Salisbury, Connecticut, in 1803 when Caleb Bingham donated a collection of 150 books suitable for children to be made available to youth from ages nine through sixteen. In 1835, Ebenezer Learned's will provided West Cambridge, Massachusetts, with one hundred dollars for the establishment of a children's library.

In 1891, the Brookline, Massachusetts, Library opened the first separate reading-room for children within a public library. Situated in the basement of the library, pictorial newspapers and juveniles magazines were put in the room, together with bound volumes of Harper's Weekly and the Youth's Companion. Two years later, the Minneapolis Public Library became the first to open a children's room both for reading and the circulation of children's books.

By the turn of the century, public library service to children had made a promising beginning. No longer would children primarily be served by sending collections of books into the schools. They were now recognized as part of the public, needing their own quarters, their own book collection, and a staff to serve them.

When the Madison Free Library opened in 1875, children fifteen years of age and younger were not allowed to use the library. This rule remained in effect until 1897, when librarian Gloria Hough and the library board abolished the rule prohibiting children from checking out books from the library.

On January 10, 1902, the first Children's Room in the Madison Free Library opened. The common council had been persuaded to share part of the remodeling costs of converting an old workroom in the City Hall into a Children's Room, and the community responded with generous interest. Money, books, pictures, and furniture were donated.

In her Annual Report to the Library Board in 1902, librarian Julia Hopkins identified the establishment of a separate department for children as the most important work undertaken in the library in that year. In that Annual Report, she extolled the virtues of the new Children’s Room in terms of its educational value,

"In the Children's Room our boys and girls become familiar with books, learn to use them as tools, and to depend upon them to make clear some of the problems that come to them in work and play. Besides the familiarity with books, the room does more; it trains the child to be a good citizen; he is taught to be careful of public property and to respect the rights of others."

In the early fall of 1902, Miss Hannah Ellis was engaged as the first children's librarian. In her book Free and Public: One Hundred Years with the Madison Public Library, Janet Ela described Miss Ellis' initial accomplishments,

"Miss Ellis expanded the work already begun, initiated Story Hours and Mothers' meetings and worked with several clubs to stimulate use of the Children's Room, introduced picture collections for first and second grade classrooms, enlarged the rotating loans to upper grades with more materials (including pictures and art for geography classes) and made monthly visits to each of the many school rooms to spark interest in the loaned books and to acquaint children with the ways of the library."

Hannah Ellis, Julia Hopkins, and the Library Board successfully helped to lay the groundwork for providing children's services that have continued to the present. To appreciate the enormity of their accomplishments, it is important to remember the formidable situation confronting these early leaders in planning a children's library. There was nowhere for them to turn for guidance. They faced a diversity of problems that they had to solve through their own devices, including planning and equipping the Children's Room, working out principles of book selection, finding and training staff, evolving methods of attracting children to the library and guiding their reading, establishing their relationships with the children, and cementing the child's relationship to the library. Not only did they make considerable headway in solving these problems, but their solutions proved to be a guiding force for the Children's Room into the next century.

"Tell a Dirty One!": The Story Hour Lives Happily Ever After

"You may talk to a child about books, he will give a certain kind of response, particularly if he respects your judgement because of previous experience, but tell him a story and you have him fastened with chains he does not care to resist." - Edna Lyman, Children's Librarian, Oak Park, IL, 1905

The exact date of the first library story hour in the United States is uncertain, but it is likely to have occurred just before 1900. As early as 1896, Anne Carroll Moore had given storytelling a place in the children's rooms of the new Pratt Institute Free Library in Brooklyn, New York. In 1899, the storytelling hour was incorporated as a regular part of the program at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

When Marie Shedlock, a professional storyteller from London, England, came to the United States in 1900, it was her inspiration, as she traveled throughout the country, telling stories, lecturing, and training storytellers, that gave impetus to the idea of storytelling as a true art. She told stories in French and English, including Hans Christian Andersen's "Tin Soldier," "The Swineherd," and "The Princess and the Pea;" Laurence Houseman's "A Chinese Fairy Tale" and "Tikipu." The telling reportedly was unforgettable.

The Story Hour for children was inaugurated at the Madison Free Library in February 1903, one year after the Children's Room was opened. The Librarian's Annual Report to the Board of Directors described this initial foray into the world of storytelling:

"Owing to the want of an extra room and the unwillingness to interrupt the regular work of the room, which is open from 12 to 6, it was decided to hold it in the evening. The library being situated as it is in the heart of the business part of the city renders it impossible for many of the children to come to it in the evening. The result of this was that the children who attended the Story Hour were those who otherwise would have been on the street. The attendance was small and consisted of only such as drifted in, attracted often by the lighted room. Most of them were boys who have never been in the library before. The stories told were from the Norse mythology, and the attention and interest shown were highly flattering to the story-teller."

By 1906, the experiment succeeded such that the library instituted a program of story hours for children six to nine years old each Saturday morning and for children nine to twelve years old on Wednesday afternoons. The stories for younger children were chosen mainly from classic stories, poems, and ballads drawn from folklore. The stories for older children were drawn from Norse myths, with the proviso that this plan would be interrupted by stories appropriate to the holidays as they occurred.

During the winter of 1906-07, the library initiated a new Sunday lecture series for adults. Within two years, this service was extended to children. In 1909, the following special lectures to school children were offered on Sundays:

"Jules Verne's Trip to the Moon"
"A Trip Through Europe"
"A Trip Around the World"
"Abraham Lincoln"
"Japanese Life and Customs"
"A Trip Through Yellowstone"

From those early story hours through the present, librarians have told stories to introduce children to new books and traditional tales, to nurture in children a love of literature and language, to guide their reading and expand their literary horizons, and to open their minds and touch their hearts. The power and joy of storytelling continues to delight both librarians and children today. All of the library branches currently offer weekly story hours in the morning, and often visiting storytellers tell stories for special programs. Performing as one of those "guest" storytellers, I am continually delighted by the warm reception of the host librarians and MPL audiences. The library has successfully developed a hospitable environment for storytelling.

In June 1970, the following anecdote was reported the Listening Post:

At story hour one day the librarian asked–
"What kind of a story would you like to hear?"
"Tell a funny one!"
"Tell a happy one!"
"Tell a sad one!"
"Tell a silly one!"
Then very loudly, from a devilish-looking little boy in the back row:
"Tell a dirty one!"

Not to be outdone by such a young heckler, the librarian rose to the occasion and told,
How Animals Take a Bath.

A Story Hour in 1911 For "Wee Mary and Little Willie" Concludes with a Swimming Party at Tenney Park

On July 13, 1911, the Madison Free Library launched a new Thursday afternoon story hour as part of its summer library programming for children. On the day before the program, the Madison Democrat, one of Madison's two original daily newspapers, provided the following description of both the plan for that first Thursday program and the post-story-hour outing to Tenney Park, the first Madison park providing public lake access:

The Story Hour

"The city library will mean something more than a place to read and where books are kept thereafter, for today a new custom will be established, that of having a story hour every Thursday afternoon from 2:45 o’clock for an hour thereafter… The grown-ups will hear the old favorite, Midsummer Night's Dream, for those not so advanced in years and understanding there will be Tales of Old Pipes and the Dryad, and … For wee Mary and little Willie is reserved the wonderful tale of How the Leopard Got its Spots.

… After the tales are ended, Mrs. Merry (the storyteller) will take charge of the young people and all will go to Tenney Park, where at 4:00 o'clock a picnic will be held….Again will young childhood be made glad, for there's to be a bathing beach to be made in Tenney Park. It will be one of the nice, smooth kind where the water will be so clear that you can count the little toes scrunching the gravelly bottom. And it will be so safe that anxious parents need be anxious no longer when Susie and Johnie aspire to be great swimmers. The beach will be at the foot of Brearly Street and will be in charge of university swimming experts and a number of young ladies from the playground department of the university. A temporary bathhouse will be set up. Over all this, Miss Merry, an enthusiastic and a most successful worker in playground matters, will keep a watchful eye with a single object in view: healthier and happier childhood."

NOTE: It is likely that the article erroneously listed Brearly Street as the locale for the beach. According to several local historians, the Tenney Beach in 1911 was located at its present location at the end of Marston Avenue.

The provision of a storytelling program for adults in 1910 contrasts markedly with the common assumption today that storytelling is a form of entertainment primarily suitable for children, although recently there's been a resurgence of programming for adults too.

The First Movies Shown in the Library

"What in the world would we do without libraries?" - Katherine Hepburn, actress

Thomas Edison often has been given credit for inventing motion pictures. It might be more accurate to say that Edison, coordinating the ideas of other inventors, promoted in his laboratory the building of the motion-picture camera. He said that in 1887 the idea occurred to him that "it was possible to devise an instrument which should do for the eye and the ear, and that by a combination of the two, all motion and sound be recorded and reproduced simultaneously."

Nine years elapsed before the projection of motion pictures onto a screen became a practical reality. The name chosen for the new machine was the vitascope. On April 14, 1896, under the headline "Edison's Latest Triumph," the New York Times reported:

"Thomas A. Edison and Albert Vial have perfected arrangements by which Edison's latest invention, the vitascope, will be exhibited for the first time anywhere at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall. Edison has been at work on the vitascope for several years.

The vitascope projects upon a large area of canvas groups that appear to stand forth from the canvas, and move with great facility and agility, as though actuated by several impulses. In this way the bare canvas before the audience becomes instantly a stage upon which living beings move about."

Five days later, the first newspaper advertisement of a moving picture appeared in the Times. On April 23, the film premier was described in the Times as follows:

"…A burlesque boxing match between a tall, thin comedian and a short, fat one, a comic allegory called The Monroe Doctrine, an instant of motion in Hoyt's farce, A Milk White Flag, repeated over and over again, and a skirt dance by a tall blonde completed the views, which were all wonderfully real and singularly exhilarating. For the spectator's imagination filled the atmosphere with electricity, as sparks crackled around the moving lifelike figures."

The production of motion pictures in the United States progressed through the next decade with an important milestone occurring in 1903. In that year, the film The Great Train Robbery offered a new kind of motion picture; one that created interest by something more than the illusion of motion. This film was different because it told a story in an exciting way, whereas previous films had been depicting vaudeville skits, scenes from real life, and reenacted bits from plays. This eight-minute film was extremely successful and is credited with turning movies into a popular art. Small theaters called nickelodeons sprang up throughout the United States. The story film had been permanently established.

Throughout the world, around 1905, the primary site of movie exhibitions began to shift from fairgrounds and vaudeville houses to permanent motion picture theaters. Before long, this transformation of locale would include the library too. In 1910, the Madison Free Library became the first library in Wisconsin that used moving pictures as an aid to the work of the public library. On December 3, a moving picture show was held in the auditorium of the library. Admission was by tickets that had been distributed to teachers and pupils of the seventh and eighth grades of the public schools.

Miss Weil, the children's librarian, first told a simple tale of "Launcelot and Elaine," explaining that pictures would soon illustrate the story and that this story, as well as other stories of a similar nature, could be found at the loan desk in the children's room. Her goal, though unstated, was to use the moving picture to motivate the audience to read. She then showed the twenty-minute moving picture. This process was repeated with the presentation of the story of "Oliver Twist" followed by a moving picture related to the story. As anticipated, many of those who saw the moving pictures did indeed go to the loan desk to find more of those stories and other similar stories.

The librarians were pleased with the results, but their optimism about using moving pictures as a motivational tool in the future was tempered by the recognition that there were not many films available that both were well suited to be shown to children and which would interest those children in "the best literature."

Snapshots of Children in the Library: "Little Folk" Take a Lively Interest in the Institution

"As a child, my number one best friend was the librarian in my grade school. I actually believed all those books belonged to her … When she warned that some of these books were too old for me, I told her that they were for my mother. I have never regretted my dishonesty." - Erma Bombeck, author

Early Williamson Street branchIn 1904, Albert and Elmer Mills moved their grocery business from 1004 Williamson Street to 1051 Williamson Street. On March 12, 1910, the East Side library station was opened in three "pleasant" rooms over the Mills grocery store. The space was leased for $20 per month and the name "6th Ward Branch" was agreed upon. Women in the 6th Ward had conducted a waste paper collection drive and held an entertainment that raised $200 to equip the branch with furniture and fixtures. A book reception was held at the Main Library to which people brought books as gifts for the new branch.

An article appearing in the Wisconsin State Journal shortly after the opening provides a snapshot of children in that Madison book station in 1910:

"The first apartment on entering is called the children's room: here a little latitude in the way of conversation is permitted. The writer was interested in one "Myrtle," a little seven year old who was bending entranced over a liberally illustrated volume containing the historic text of "The House That Jack Built." She was admonished by her brother, hitherto absorbed in some stereoscopic views, that while the book she was reading might do for Ada or Rudolph, it was young for her. Thereupon a little neighboring reader volunteered to search the shelves for a book more worthy her maturity. The slight incident seemed in a way to reflect the spirit of the place."

A stereopticon is a three-dimensional viewing device that was popular more than one hundred years ago. This optical instrument was used to impart a three-dimensional effect to two photographs of the same scene viewed through two eyepieces. The Madison Free Library acquired its first stereopticon in 1910. The power of this device, and of books, to "transport" children to other places was well expressed by MFL children's librarian Grace Aldrich:

"The books on travel and the stereopticon are like magic wishing carpets. When the children wish to be in Japan or India, they can take out a book on Japan or India or they can get out the stereoptican views, and in a moment they are thinking in that land, if they are not actually there."

The Mother Who Starved Her Child by Saying "No Fairy Tales for My Child": Questions About Children's Reading in 1916

"Plenty of books, but they require good readers; the meadow is full of milk, but it needs cows to extract it." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet

One of the many missions of the MPL has been to help parents in their efforts to help children become able readers. When the Children's Room was opened in 1902, the library immediately organized "mother's meetings" and worked with many clubs to involve parents in promoting children's literacy. There also are records of children's librarian Grace Aldrich giving book talks at a Parents-Teachers Association meetings in 1922; children's librarian Gladys Raines providing suggestions, lists and advice for "puzzled parents" as part of a book fair in 1936; and invitations to parents in 1940 to join the "Good Book Week" celebrations at the library.

As part of this ongoing campaign to aid parents, librarian Mary Smith wrote an article on "Children's Reading" for the Wisconsin State Journal in conjunction with the "Good Book Week" celebration at the Madison Free Library from December 4 to 9, 1916. She prefaced the article by explaining that in connection with Good Book Week, various questions were asked at the library that deserved an answer. The following excerpts from her December 3 article reveal as much about Miss Smith's disdain for the efforts of parents as they do about the questions she addresses. Ironically, her highly critical tone toward parents may well have alienated those very parents she was attempting to enlighten.

Are mothers negligent about their daughters' reading?

"I can not say whether mothers do not watch their daughters' reading of the second rate sensational magazine. We do not have them in the library and have no way to know about them in Madison homes. The subject is surely worth the consideration of mothers. We librarians do know that mothers often do not seem interested nor take any responsibility about what their daughters read in book form."

Are people interested in all these new books written to help fathers and mothers know about the best reading for children and young people?

"My answer to this is no. We fear sometimes they do not know they exist. Teachers know them better than parents, and if a mother has been a teacher within a few years, her children stand a better chance of having the best books as they develop reading habits. They also stand a better chance of having good taste develop

How about fairy tales? Are they still read?

"Yes, indeed, but we certainly wish mothers would study fairy tales and fairy tales, until they could distinguish between the many wishy-washy, imaginationless modern fairy tales and the folklore fairy tale given to a child at a public library. Probably there is more book rubbish being given to children in this modern fairy tale form than in any other. It is in many magazines published for children and taken into homes where mothers ought to know better. Once in a while there comes along the mother who starves her child by saying "No fairy tales for my child." It seems almost useless to tell her what great educators say about the fitness of the fairy tale for the child at certain ages. She has gotten a mental twist some time herself and the child has to suffer."

Do parents buy enough books for children?

‘They may buy in quantity, but in quality, no. If Good Book Week would lead one hundred parents in Madison to forego their own pleasure at the theater just for one night this winter and put that money into books for their children, good books, well written, well printed, well illustrated, it would be worth while."

What about people who say children are reading too much?

"Reading too much what? Certainly not too many good books in Madison yet. Too many poorly printed books? Yes. On paper trying to the eyes? Yes. Print too fine? Yes. But they do not get them from the City Library."

Children's Librarian Faith Allen Writes about Poetry and War in 1918

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know it is poetry." - Emily Dickinson, poet

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, public librarians throughout the country mobilized to contribute to the war effort. Exhibits of guns and gas masks were found in libraries everywhere, along with war photographs and posters. Pro-Allied propaganda was distributed. Many libraries hosted a variety of war relief programs and some even hosted gatherings of women who were sewing and knitting for soldiers.

During the war years, the librarians at the Madison Free Library adopted a complicated set of attitudes toward children and their relationship to the war. They wanted to enlist children's aid in the war effort and hence sold scrapbooks made by children to be filled for wounded soldiers and sailors. They considered the war an opportunity for maximizing the library's positive impact on children by educating them about democracy and patriotism. They also wanted children's lives to continue with an air of normality.

Set against this background, journal articles written in 1918 by MFL children's librarian Faith Allen illustrate the complexity of providing library service for children when the country was fighting a war. Toward the end of 1917, Miss Allen, a graduate of the Carnegie Library School in Pittsburgh, was appointed children's librarian. Shortly after assuming her duties, she wrote two articles that were published in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin in January and February of 1918. The first, "A Poetry Hour for Children," reflects the attitude that children’s lives should continue as usual, even in the midst of a war. Her second article, "Children and Patriotism," directly exhorts librarians to use the war to broaden children’s understanding of world events and to arouse in them the strongest ideals of a democracy.

Excerpts from both articles are presented below. The poetry article resonates of difficulties contemporary librarians (and teachers) still experience when attempting to spark children's interest in poetry. The patriotism essay reflects a desire to expose children to important issues, a continuing priority for MPL children's librarians.

"A Poetry Hour for Children"
by Faith Allen, Wisconsin Library Bulletin, January 1918, page 23

A revived interest in poetry is being felt very generally today among all classes of people. What are you doing to arouse this same interest among the children?

The boy or girl does not read poetry easily and will not from choice take a book of poems home from the library, but even the most prosaic child enjoys hearing them read aloud. A poetry hour in the library will do a great deal to arouse enthusiasm for this too unpopular class of literature. The librarian can gather the children once a week, or oftener, and read to them from some of the good collections and anthologies compiled especially for young people. Wiggin's Posy Ring and Golden Numbers, Thacher's Listening Child, Repplier's Book of Famous Verse, Stevenson's Home Book of Verse for Young Folks, and Chisholm's Golden Staircase are all recommended.

If the librarian does not feel that she herself loves poetry well enough to be able to awaken a corresponding interest in the children perhaps some one in the town who is a poetry enthusiast will be glad of an opportunity to assist in this work. Let children of all ages come to the poetry hour but have the meeting as informal as possible. One must make a wide selection of poems in order to fit each age. For the little ones Mother Goose rhymes, Lear's nonsense verses, and Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses are always suitable. What child can resist

"The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat"

"Children and Patriotism"
by Faith Allen, Wisconsin Library Bulletin, February 1918, page 46

It is the children of today who will enjoy or suffer the results of the present great world war for they are the men and women of tomorrow. With this in mind we must consider what we, as librarians, are doing to bring to them the significance of present events and to arouse in them the strongest ideals of a democracy. Now is the time when patriotism should be at its fullest expression. It is the librarian's opportunity to bring to the children the books and material which will show them not only the importance of the great world war but the struggle of the human race throughout the ages for freedom, justice, and liberty.

The new reading list, Patriotism, published by the New York Public Library is excellently well done and, while it is intended for older boys and girls in the high school, it will be suggestive for similar reading for the younger children. Not only our own country's story but that of other countries and their heroes of liberty should be familiar to the boys and girls of today.

Many of the current magazine articles on the war are of interest to children and should be brought to their attention, while their own St. Nicholas has its particular section, The Watch Tower, devoted to current events, and another department, For Liberty and Country, which contains many articles of interest such as the work of the submarines, the Junior Red Cross, food conservation, etc.

Graded Book Lists for School Libraries in 1921

"The great threat to the young and pure in heart is not what they read, but what they don't read." - Heywood Broun, journalist

From 1911 to 1952, the Madison Free Library and the Madison Public Schools closely collaborated to meet the needs of children through printed matter. The library provided the schools with books, librarians, and guidance in selecting and using materials with children.

In 1921, staff members of the MFL, a committee of teachers, and assistant school superintendent Mary O’Keefe collaborated to create a "Graded Book List for School Libraries." The list provided recommendations both of fiction and nonfiction, designating the approximate grade level for which each title was best suited. Two particular factors spoke to the need for creating such a list.

First, there was a desire to provide a wider variety of high quality titles for the lower grades. Previously, the educational thrust had been to focus on exposing children to several versions of the same literary classic. The new emphasis was to employ a limited number of versions of the same classic and to use those versions as springboards for arousing children's interest in additional subjects related to the classics. This transformation necessitated expanding the pool of books considered appropriate for children.

Second, at the time, there were few graded book lists for children available and hence such a compilation would provide a service that could be of use in Madison and elsewhere. Librarian Mary Smith published the list in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin in June 1921 to make it available to librarians throughout the state. She also emphasized the importance of providing children with books containing vocabulary the child could easily read since "the mass of children do not have help at home."

A representative sample of titles from that list appears below. The original list included information about the publisher and the price (ranging from $.28-$2.25 per book), which are omitted here.

Grade 1

Adelborg - Clean Peter
Baum - Little helper
Burgess - Goops and how to be them; More Goops and how not to be them
Caldecott - House that Jack built
Cox - Brownies: their book
Holbrook - Hiawatha Alphabet
Post - My little French book, My little red Indian book
Willcox - Little Folks book of questions

Readers for Grade 1

Brown - Jingle Primer
Grover - Art Literature readers: primer, Folklore reader: primer
Klingensmith - Eureka first reader
McMahon - Rhyme and Story Primer
Mason - Realistic First Reader
Noyes - Sunshine Primer
White - Pantomime Primer

Grade 2


Baldwin - Robinson Crusoe retold
Bannerman - Story of Black Quasha, Story of little Black Sambo
Davidson - Bunnikins-bunnies in camp, Bunnikins- bunnies in Europe
Higgins - Holidays in Mother Goose land
Olmstad - Ned and Nan in Holland
Smith - Arabella and Araminta stories
Smith - Roggie and Reggie stories
Smythe - Reynard the Fox

Nature, Animals, Birds

Chase - Stories from birdland
David - Nature stories for youngest readers: animals
Dopp - Tree dwellers
Dyer - Sniffy, Snappy, and Velvet Paw
Stickney - Earth and Sky

Stories of Our Own and Other Times and Lands

Brooks - Stories of the red children
Chance - Little folks of many lands
Mott - Fishing and Hunting
Smith - Eskimo stories

Grade 3

Fairy Tales, Myths, Legends

Andersen- Fairy tales
Baldwin- Old Greek stories
Browne- Wonderful chair and the tales it told
Hays- Princess Idleways
Henderson- Little Golden Hood
Thorne-Thomsen- East 'o the sun and west o' the moon
Williston- Japanese fairy tales

Primitive Life

Dopp - Early cavemen, Late cavemen
Jewett - Hopi, the cliff dweller
McIntyre - Cave boy of the age of stone


Allen - Children of the palm lands
Livingston - What daddies do

Conduct of Life: Sanitation, Health, Ethics, Citizenship

Bailey - What to do for Uncle Sam
Ferguson - Child's book of the teeth
Fryer - Our home and personal duty

Grade 4

Poetry, Plays

Hubbard - Little American history plays for little Americans
Lansing - Quaint old stories to read and act|
Stevenson - Children's classics in dramatic form
Wiggin - Posy ring


Baldwin - American stories of golden deeds
Cravens - Story of Lincoln
Imlach - Story of Columbus
Shaw - Discovers and explorers

That is the Magic of Books!

During the mid-1920s, Grace Aldrich was the MFL children's librarian. In May 1924, she published an original story in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin titled "Yes, They Are!" Although she specifies that her story is "for boys and girls," it is a timeless eulogy of a librarian’s love for literature that speaks to adult readers as well to children. This passion for books has been a staple of staff and board members throughout the library's history. Her story is presented below

"Yes, They Are!" by Grace L. Aldrich
Wisconsin Library Bulletin, May 1924, p108

The librarian entered the schoolroom. She looked about slowly, all around, as though she had never been there before. The children watched her expectantly.

"You have windows here!" she said.

A little gasp of a laugh went around.

What a question! They turned and looked at the windows as though to assure themselves of the fact.

"What are they for?" the librarian said.

"What do you see through them?" There was a note of incredulity in her voice.

"How far can you see?"

"A hundred miles." "A mile." Ideas differed.

"What kinds of things?"

"Trees." "Houses." "People." "Birds." "White clouds."

What funny questions! There was a pause. The children were watching her.

Then she said, "Books are windows."

And out of the stillness that followed a high little voice said, "Yes! They a-a-re!"

* * *

Through books we may look far away to other lands, see other people-see windmills in Holland or spotted leopards wandering in African jungles; see real things that are! Or we may look behind us through our book-windows and see real things that were and are no more; things that happened before we were born or before Columbus was born.

There is another book-window. This is the window into someone's mind; that book which tells of things which never were or people who never lived. These people and landds existed only in someone's mind. He put them into his book. We read his book and we see them-and behold that book is a window between his mind and ours.

That is the magic of books! Take one up. It is just a collection of sheets of white paper covered with curious black marks - white paper and printer's ink! Yet what magic it has in it! Is it any wonder that the first people who could read were sometimes called magicians? This white paper and black ink may be the means of making you see something new, something you have never thought of before; something far away or high up! This books [sic] leads your spirit to far horizons.

Yes, books are windows!

Attracting Children to the Library: Awards and Rewards

"From a child…all the little money came into my hands was ever laid out on books." - Benjamin Franklin, inventor

In November 1923, the Madison Free Library celebrated Children's Book Week with an "Earn-a-Book" project planned by Children's Librarian Grace Aldrich. She placed the announcement of the project on the Children's Room bulletin board instead of in the schools so that the contest would be understood as an entirely "voluntary and joyous" experience unconnected with the schools' compulsory work. Awards of personalized bookplates were offered to every boy and girl who would earn money and purchase a book for his or her own library. The only condition of the contest was that the money should actually be earned. The children were then allowed to buy any book they desired at any of the local book stores, "no outside pressure being brought to bear on their choices."

Miss Aldrich was particularly gratified by the high quality of titles selected by the children. Among the titles chosen were:

Pinnochio, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Gritli's Children, Roosevelt's African Hunt, Ramona, The Old Curiosity Shop, Scouting for Girls, Tom Sawyer, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Treasure island, Ivanhoe, Lone Bull’s Mistake, Swiss Family Robinson, Penrod and Sam, Robin Hood, With Crockett and Bowie, and a year's subscription to Nature Magazine.

A local book store considered the contest so worthwhile that additional prizes were offered to the contestants, one for a boy and one for a girl, a copy of Kidnapped and one of Andersen's Fairy Tales.

In 1999, the Madison Public Library Summer Reading Program continued the practice of offering rewards to motivate young patrons to read. Among the prizes were wallets for their library cards, discount food coupons to restaurants, discount cards for purchasing books at local bookstores, and an opportunity to participate in a drawing for a book autographed by a children’s author. In previous years, the prizes included pencils, special erasers, pocket games, and puzzles.

For many people, the library is a place of magic where one feels "rewarded" simply by going there. Fay Waxman's recollection of her childhood library experiences during the 1930’s captures this sentiment:

"I remember wayyyyyy back when I was in grammar school what a treat it was the one day a week the teacher took us to the public library (our school didn't have a library) — it was my introduction to books and to libraries and oh, I handled those books with such reverence! Food and clothing was a priority in my home — not books — going to a library was a whole new world!"

In 1924, a Madison schoolteacher clearly shared this idea that a trip to the library was a special reward for children. On April 4 the Wisconsin State Journal reported that "the second and third grades of Doty School, accompanied by Mrs. Mackin, visited the city library." This "treat" was awarded the pupils because of their perfect record in punctuality the preceding month.

Through the Eyes of Children

The power of libraries perhaps is best understood when viewed through the fresh eyes of children. Their riches can be newly appreciated by hearing the stories of children who are confident that reliable library staff will help them find their way home, fascinated by the opportunity to locate their home on a globe, and astounded that they are trusted to check out and return library books, The anecdotes that follow from the library staff newsletter the Listening Post serve as timeless reminders of the wonders of the library.

"Anecdote for Our Egos in 1972"

"Three children, ages 6 to 11, came into the library one evening last week, cold and chilled and shivering. They wanted an address on the square of an apartment building where they lived. It was their first day at a new school and they had gotten off the bus at 'Woolworth's' instead of Kresge's. Without panic they had first come to the Public Library!"

"The Big Dent in the Globe Mystery of 1977"

A young man came up to the children's reference desk and asked, "Who made that big dent in the globe?" Momentarily panicked, the librarian dashed to the globe only to find he meant a spot where too many eager little fingers have touched "Madison, Wisconsin" and worn away the surface.

"A New Convert in 1971"

"Stephen was telling his Father about his first day at pre school story hour at Hawthorne (as reported by his mother). He told him about the lady who told the stories, the games he played, and his new friends. "And then, Daddy," he said, ‘the most exciting thing happened! They let us pick out books and take them home!!"

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