In Bank Street’s early years, founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell became a student of children’s language, observing and recording their interactions and the stories they told. She concluded that straying from a traditional model and creating a more child-centered classroom, best seen through play, opens up their natural expression and reflects an insatiable interest in the world around them.
In subsequent decades, Mitchell would see her modest experiment grow to become a source of exceptional literature. She opened the Bank Street Writers Lab, which encouraged authors to produce children’s literature that reflected an understanding of the language of growing children, was responsive to their real and imagined worlds, and affirmed each of their social and cultural heritages. Members included prolific children’s book authors like Margaret Wise Brown, who played around with “storytelling” in Goodnight Moon, and Maurice Sendak, often called the Picasso of children’s literature for his brilliant illustrations that complemented language to create meaningful experiences for children.
In 1965, The Bank Street Readers were published as the first multicultural, multi-ethnic books to teach children to read — amplifying two of Bank Street's most important goals: helping children explore the world through language and reaching them by reflecting the real settings and contexts in which they live and learn.