Anne Rebecca Izard was a consummate storyteller. She enthralled her audiences, and her love of story was only surpassed by her love of those to whom she told. Born in North Carolina, she carried the vestige of her birth in the gentle cadence and patterns of speech her listeners came to love.
Anne began her career at the NY Public Library under Anne Carroll Moore. It was then she used her vacation to do volunteer storytelling for The Herald Tribune Fresh Air Camps, and she soon recognized the power of the story for bonding with her young audience. From then on, storytelling was a significant part of her professional career and personal life.
When she later worked as a children’s librarian in Westchester County, she continued offering successful storytelling programs. While the media of radio, television and moving pictures were progressively greater diversions in the lives of children, it is reported that more than 200 children lined up around the corner waiting for Anne to open the library to them in Mount Vernon.
In 1959 she became the first Children’s Services Consultant of the Westchester Library System. During her time in that position, she led classes, workshops and monthly meetings on book reviewing and storytelling for the librarians. Her tenure was marked by her determined stand on quality in books, quality in storytelling, quality in service to children, and her personal assistance to each librarian in each library. She also served nationally on numerous ALA committees, receiving statewide and national honors for her dedication to children and their education.
An early member of the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling, (now known as the National Storytelling Network) Anne founded the Westchester Storytellers Guild for volunteer storytellers in the mid-1970’s, encouraging many to develop and share their craft. Organizing annual conferences, she brought fledgling storytellers, many of whom later achieved national prominence, to Westchester’s librarians and interested adults. As a result, untold numbers of children and adults have listened to stories told by Anne’s students, their successors and colleagues in Westchester where the awareness and practices she established and encouraged are still in existence.
Anne’s influence reached far beyond Westchester. In 1969 Mrs. Mitsue Ishitake came from Japan to study with Anne, returning to her homeland to develop a storytelling troupe. By 1988 there were 23 Ohanashi Caravans presenting stories to children throughout Japan as well as to children in other lands in Asia and Europe.
After her retirement and move from Westchester in 1976, Anne focused almost solely on storytelling and was a featured teller at the 1984 National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. For the remainder of her life, she told to adults and children alike, continuing to preserve the stories and art from the oral tradition.