Imagine walking down a trail with your child and you come upon a page from a children’s book. As you continue walking, you find another page, and then another, and you begin to realize you’re following a story. This is a StoryWalk or Storybook Trail.
A Storybook Trail is a fun, educational activity that places the pages from a children’s story along a trail in a community. It is for children of all levels to enjoy the outdoors and read a book with their family and friends. A Storybook Trail helps build children’s’ interest in reading while encouraging healthy outdoor physical fitness. Local schools, and even daycare facilities, can also use the trail for educational and physical fitness purposes.
A scene from along the trail at the Broomfield StoryWalk, a collaborative effort with Broomfield Library, Public Works, Recreation, and the Senior Center Woodshop in Colorado.
Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, a specialist in chronic disease prevention, was looking for fun ways to get families outside and moving. In 2007, she came up with the idea of separating out the pages of a children’s book and posting them along a local nature trail. The idea caught on in her community and she then began loaning out books through Montpelier’s Kellogg-Hubbard Library.
Since then, StoryWalk trails have been installed in parks, on library campuses and along nature trails in all 50 states and 12 countries.
“Ten or eleven years ago, this idea was just kind of magic,” says Sean Higgins, not only an interpretation and education manager at North Carolina State Parks, but also a parent. “I’m thrilled to see it pop up all over.”
So, how do you get started. The simplest way is to select a children’s book, take apart the pages, laminate them and post them along a trail. The process is legal as long as the pages are not altered in any way (including enlarging them). Making changes requires permission from the book’s copyright holder. You may want to take a look at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library’s Storywalk FAQs for more details.
Within that basic framework, StoryWalk trails can vary widely. Durability is a prime concern for long-term StoryWalk installations. One option for more permanent StoryWalks is to use custom metal frames and posts that can withstand time and wear.
And you may want to get specialty signage. Story Trail Signage provides signs to mount along a path for self-guided walks along a trail. They have taken a collection of classic children's stories and songs, put an ag-education twist on each of them, and blown them up onto sets of outdoor signage. Each "story trail" set of signs focuses on specific agriculture themes and serves as self-contained attraction for placement through a corn maze, orchard, or any other kid-friendly walking path.
You may be wondering where these StoryWalk Trails are. They are all over.
StoryWalk® Glenwood Springs, CO is in Gregory Park and features "Dipper's Adventure", a bilingual book and an original story written and illustrated by the 4th and 5th grade classes at Two Rivers Community School. The story is about a mule deer named Dipper who finds his habitat encroached upon as he leaves his winter ground and heads back to the mountains to find a new habitat. He encounters many different plants and animals along the way.
In a collaboration with the Erie Islands Library, the Put-In-Bay StoryWalk (OH) is an 852-foot looped trail through a former vineyard, which has now become a young forest. The trail includes seventeen storyboard posts placed along a mulched path & displays laminated pages from children’s books. Along the path, visitors can look for flora & fauna including birds, reptiles & amphibians, wildflowers and trees.
In another library collaboration, the New Hanover County Public Library System in Wilmington, NC has four StoryWalk trails across the county. They decided to use the storywalk trails to meet a community goal of trying to get people moving and to be healthier. The books they selected offer move-along instructions that direct participants to move in certain ways while walking from one sign to the next. One book, “I Got the Rhythm” by Connie Schofield-Morrison, instructs families to move their feet rhythmically on their way to one sign, and shake their hips with their arms in the air on the way to another.
The Believe in Books Literacy Foundation in Intervale, NH welcomes members, visitors and groups on a year-round basis to enjoy their 1/2-mile Storybook Trail. The trail features a new children’s book each week. During the spring, they offer a separate Maple Sugaring Storybook Trail amongst the sap buckets to learn more about the maple sugaring process. The Foundation looks at their Storybook Trail as a way for kids to exercise both their brain and body with stories in a unique way.
And in the land of down under, Carrick Hill, a historic home and garden, near Adelaide, Australia, designed their Story Book Trail to enable children to explore and discover the natural world and uses classic children’s tales to encourage the imagination. The first stage of the Children’s Story Book Trail mainly focuses on British classic tales. Along a sandy track that weaves past ponds and through groves of trees, children encounter some of these features:
- The Hobbit
A Hobbit House is built into a bank of ground. This is Bagend where Bilbo lives and a dragon lurks. About the story: Written in 1937 by J.J.R.Tolkein. Hobbits are half our height with brown hair on their feet and live in holes in the ground.
- The Magic Faraway Tree
A ring of log seats are placed under the tree with a door at the base of the trunk leading the imagination to ponder where fairies live. About the story: A popular series of children’s books written by Enid Blyton between 1939 and 1951. Three children find a gigantic magic tree in an enchanted wood. Magic lands appear at the top of the tree and the children can visit but can’t stay long for fear of being stuck when the magic land changes.
And of course, local REALTORS® have been part of this effort. The Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS® received a NAR Placemaking Grant to start building a StoryWalk Trail at Rathdrum Mountain. "The stories will primarily be children’s stories, but the pages can easily be changed out and customized to specific topics or age ranges," said Eric Singer, the city's parks and recreation director, adding that the Rathdrum Library is supplying the reading material.
Members of the Association worked with the city to dig holes, pour concrete and place the 20 storybook holders to prepare the trail for the public to enjoy. "Realtors live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them," said Amanda Kuespert, the association's president. "This grant will allow us to address areas in our community that are in need of enhancement and revitalization and create a place where friends and neighbors can come together.” The city is already discussing using the StoryWalk in conjunction with their Halloween events this year. It's truly a hit.
So, if you’re looking for a placemaking project to build in your community, and engage your members, a Storybook Trail may be in your future.