Throughout the centuries and across cultures, the storyteller has held an important place in their community: the teacher, the historian, the entertainer. Today, the art of storytelling continues to instruct, remind and delight.
Different from a picture book read aloud, a story told from memory allows the listener to envision the story's action in their own unique way - building and strengthening their imagination. By sharing stories, a storyteller magically transports the listeners to other times and faraway places, taking them beyond the limits of their daily life and experiences. Augusta Baker was a master storyteller who introduced many people to the magic of stories.
Augusta Braxton Baker (1911-1998) was a legendary librarian and storyteller. She worked at the New York Public Library, becoming the first black librarian to serve as Coordinator of Children Services. During her career, she advocated for diversity in children's books, curating a list of books that accurately depicted African American life and encouraging authors, illustrators and publishers to create books for and about ALL children.
Augusta Baker shared her gift of storytelling with many people, both during her tenure at NYPL and in retirement as the Storyteller-in-Residence at the University of South Carolina. Before telling a story, she was known to light a candle to set the stage for the magic to come. She also taught countless others to tell stories (including many Richland Library staff!) in workshops and through her well-respected book, Storytelling: Art and Technique, co-authored with Ellin Greene.
"Storytelling at its best is mutual creation. Children listen and, out of the words they hear, create their own mental images; this opening of the mind's eye develops the imagination."
— Storytelling: Art and Technique by Augusta Baker and Ellin Greene
Each year, more than 1,000 fourth graders in Richland County gather to share stories on the grounds of several historic properties in downtown Columbia, SC. Library staff and local storytellers spend the morning sharing the magic of storytelling, and passing on stories to new generations.
Over the years, we have also welcomed many children's book authors and illustrators as special guests, such as Maurice Sendak, Christopher Paul Curtis, Grace Lin, Jerry Pinkney and many others!
Want to learn more about Augusta Baker and A(ugusta) Baker's Dozen? Take a look at these resources: