A StoryWalk displays the pages of a children’s book individually mounted page-by-page along a path, a wooded trail or sometimes on city sidewalks in shop windows encouraging public reading and its physicality.
“A lot of people use that path. It’s nice if you’re heading to the park or heading to the library, you stop along the way and read the stories,” Salena Sullivan, a supervisor at the Christiansburg Public Library (125 Sheltman St.) said of the library’s StoryWalk along the small tree-lined path curving from the library parking lot behind the fire department past picnic tables and grassy lawn to the Downtown Park (15 College Ave).
Large storybook pages are held under Plexiglas on wooden stands short enough for small people to see. Like way markers, the stands line the path between the library to the playground, its yellow and red slides and blue swings not far, just up the little hill beyond the firehouse.
StoryWalk, now a trademark, was developed in 2007 by Anne Ferguson, a chronic-disease prevention specialist working at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier Vermont.
Ferguson and the library wanted to create an experience that promoted early literacy, physical activity, and family time together in nature.
Together, Ferguson and the library devised activities children liked, but parents just “stood around” failing to participate.
“I knew I wanted to create something where the parents had to be as active as the children. Active parents have active children and physical activity is a key component to chronic-disease prevention,” Ferguson writes on the StoryWalk website.
This month’s book on the Christiansburg StoryWalk, with its whimsical Martin Matje illustrations on big 11″x17″ pages, is “When It Starts to Snow” by Phillis Gershator.
On the journey, the walking readers ask bears, cats, beavers and chickens what they do when it starts to snow. “I keep watch,” says the shiny black crow. Caw! Caw! Caw! when it starts to snow. Of course!” they say.
“We look for books that can be used in different seasons and are nature-based. Always, it is a great story line that is the key to this project and we consistently look for books with a message of kindness and caring,” Sullivan said. “It’s a really good thing to have outside. It’s good for literacy and for getting active. There are activities like ‘count the balls’ or ‘make a silly face’.”
The StoryWalk project helps supply books and a supportive network of libraries and communities who have built StoryWalks in 50 states and 12 countries including, Germany, Canada, England, Bermuda, Russia, Malaysia, Pakistan and South Korea.
An example of cooperation between the town and the library, Christiansburg’s StoryWalk was built in 2014 by the Christiansburg Department of Parks and Recreation.
“The library approached us with the idea of working together and the Rec. Department built the story boards, installed them, and continues to maintain them,” Pam Peyton, supervisor of community programs, said. “The Christiansburg Department of Parks and Recreation partners with many organizations within the community to promote exercise and wellness including Virginia Techniques, Peak Strength and Conditioning, Mountain 2 Island Paddle Boarding Company, Carilion Clinic : Community Health and Outreach, Agency on Aging, RSVP, VCOM and Radford University Nursing,” she said.
On the way to the park from the library this winter, children can be seen flapping like geese and wiggle digging like the worms keeping warm on the Christiansburg StoryWalk.