Tara McGowan

Storyteller • Visual Artist • Teacher • Writer   

-download Curriculum Vitae



Tara McGowan has been fascinated by all forms of picture-storytelling, East and West, since childhood. As a visual artist, who has lived and studied in Japan for many years, she brings to her performances and residencies an intimate knowledge of the language and culture. Her programs bring Japan to life through story, song, and image, and the artwork and artifacts she creates help students visualize the objects and landscape of everyday life.


Tara graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Language and Literacy in Education division of the Graduate School of Education in 2012. She is revising her dissertation into a book that examines student performances of original kamishibai stories. Her earlier book on teaching kamishibai  storytelling in the classroom published by Teacher Ideas Press, an imprint of Libraries Unlimited, came out in 2010.

Tara is currently a research associate and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society Museum in Philadelphia, collaborating with a team of researchers to develop narrative exhibitions highlighting interdisciplinary links between art, history, and science.


Tara earned a BA from Princeton University in Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies and later returned to Princeton to receive her teaching credential. She spent a year at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama and a year at Kyoto University, studying Japanese folklore on an Ito Foundation Fellowship. She has returned to Japan many times to perform and study with kamishibai artists and storytellers.


Tara is certified to teach Japanese language through the secondary level and taught at the Princeton Community Japanese Language School for several years.


Here is a sampling of the performances, workshops, and residencies Tara has conducted over the past decade:


Long-term School Residencies (year-long projects involving upward of 20 sessions):

  • Dissertation research in two public elementary schools in New Jersey (2010-2011)

  • Montgomery Upper Middle School (Independent Research Project) (2007)

  • Extended Day Program for Gifted and Talented in the Trenton School District (2005-2006) Patton J. Hill in Trenton, NJ

  • "Teaching Literacy through Kamishibai," grade 4 (2005-2006)

  • Schoenly School in Spotswood, NJ (2002-2005)

  • Harrison School in Roselle, NJ, grades 1-4 (2001-2002)

  • Cotsen Children’s Library in Firestone Library (Princeton University), regularly scheduled 4-6 week workshops for children ages 5-7 and 8 and up  (2002-2006)

Teacher Workshops and Conferences

  • Ohio State University, Institute for Japanese Studies, East Asian Studies Center (February, 2014)

    • Connecting Kamishibai to the Core Curriculum State Standards
  • Japan Society in New York 

    • “Kamishibai as a Multimodal Literacy” (March, 2012)
  • International Reading Organization (Phoenix, Arizona—February 2009)

  • Japan Society in New York (October 2007, August 2005, February 2004, February 2004)

  • NJEA TESOL Conference (July 2007)

  • Susan J. Epply Summer Storytelling Institutes for Teachers, Princeton University (July 2007)

  • Nara Prefectural Teacher’s College in Nara, Japan (presented in Japanese) (July 2005)

  • Cotsen Children’s Library, Saturday Workshops for Teachers Series (July 2002)

Storytelling Performances and Events

  • County College of Morris 8th Annual Storytelling Festival of World Music and Story (Morris, NJ)

    • Featured storyteller, presenting Japanese stories and kamishibai theater (March, 2014)

  • American Philosophical Society Museum (Philadelphia, PA)

    • “What Cornelius Varley Saw,” an original kamishibai performance developed in conjunction with the Exhibition: “Through the Looking Lens: Cornelius Varley’s Wondrous Images of Art and Science, 1800-1860” (Fall, 2013)

  • Princeton University, Firestone Library (Princeton, NJ)

    • “Truly Grimm: An Afternoon of Storytelling with Susan Danoff and Tara McGowan” in Honor of the Bicentenary of the Grimm Brothers’ Kinder-und Hausmarchen (December 2012)

  • American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)

    • Cherry Blossom Festival (March 2012)

  • PBS TV series “Great Libraries of the World” (Program 108) Cotsen Children’s Library

    • Featured as a storyteller and Japan scholar (2011)

  • Featured Storyteller for Telebration, Storytelling Center of New York and The African American Folk Heritage Association (November 2008)

  • Nobatake Library in Osaka, Japan (July 2008)

  • Scandinavia House in New York (October 2006 and January 2008)

  • Minoh Kamishibai Festival, Minoh City, Japan (July 2005, 2008)

  • Japan Society in New York (October 2007)

  • Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (October 2005)

  • Kamakura City Community Center, Kamakura, Japan (July 2005)

  • Princeton University Art Museum (March 2005)

  • NJ Storytelling Festival, Grounds for Sculpture (June 2005)

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Children’s Museum (April 2004)

  • S. Dillon Ripley Center, Smithsonian in Washington, DC (May 2004)

  • Cotsen Children’s Library in Firestone Library (Princeton University) (Family Series: 2001-2004)

Contact Information:

Tara McGowan

34-F Chicopee Dr.

Princeton, NJ 08540