Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

Fall 2019


Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research 2019, Vol. 14, pp 59–77.
ISSN: 1935-3308


While early literacy achievement continues to be stratified by social class in the United States, public libraries often offer programs such as “storytime” in order to bolster the literacy development of youth in their communities. The purpose of the present ethnographic study was to explore how storytellers recruited and maintained participation in this free literacy program in a lower-income neighborhood. Via participant observations, semi-structured interviews, and artifact collection, storytellers recruited new patrons to storytime by (1) appealing to community members to enter the physical space of the library and (2) appealing to library patrons to attend storytime. Once patrons attended storytime, storytellers acted in order to maintain storytime attendance by (1) facilitating meaningful learning experiences, (2) fostering enjoyment through participation, (3) developing nurturing relationships, and (4) offering flexibility in storytime expectations. By exploring a contextualized account of the work of storytellers, the findings suggest important avenues through which public programs may contribute to more equitable access to literacy learning.