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Trail Tales: Take a Stroll on the Wild Side With These Story Walks


Published July 30, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.

The Lamoille Family Center in Morrisville created its story walk trail five years ago and changes the featured book seasonally - COURTESY OF LAMOILLE FAMILY CENTER
  • courtesy of lamoille family center
  • The Lamoille Family Center in Morrisville created its story walk trail five years ago and changes the featured book seasonally

The idea behind a story walk is simple — take apart a picture book and post its laminated pages along a trail. Families then enjoy an outdoor saunter, paired with reading enrichment.

The Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier hosts a loaning library of more than three dozen StoryWalks, created and trademarked by Montpelier resident Anne Ferguson and available for any Vermonter to borrow. The daughter of a librarian, Ferguson brainstormed the idea in 2007 with support from Kellogg-Hubbard program and development coordinator Rachel Senechal. Other communities have created their own literary walks.

Bree Drapa, director of the Westford Public Library, says the activity benefits emerging readers, who "can build their skills in a fun and new environment — working on confidence, reading out loud, comprehension and sequencing skills." For six years, her library has partnered with the Westford Conservation Commission to set up a story walk next to Westford School (146 Brookside Rd.). In keeping with this year's library summer reading theme of "A Universe of Stories," Drapa chose Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman, a zany book with silly, colorful illustrations by Ben Cort.

For three years, Enosburg Falls Elementary School librarian and enrichment teacher Joanne Allen has installed story walks — thanks to a grant from RiseVT Franklin & Grand Isle Counties — on the Brownway River Trail, which follows the Missisquoi River. The walks can be accessed at the school, at 303 Dickinson Ave. Allen changes the story every two weeks through the end of October. Her choices have encompassed topics including friendship, problem-solving, risk-taking and gardening. In May, Vermont author Christy Mihaly visited the school and read her picture book Hey, Hey, Hay!, the featured walk at the time.

As a grandparent, Allen says she enjoys the relaxation of reading on a mowed trail away from traffic. As an educator, she appreciates the opportunity "to read outside with my classes, infuse movement, and pair activity with literacy."

Five Other Story Walks To Explore

  • The Fair Haven Free Library (107 N. Main St.) pairs a scavenger hunt with its August story, Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. The walk begins on the north end of Fair Haven Park (the village green). Scavenger hunt sheets are available at the library or the town's Thursday Concerts in the Park.
  • Rebecca Ventola, youth services librarian at Manchester Community Library (138 Cemetery Ave.) directs visitors to Violet's Music by Angela Johnson, placed along the library's adjacent trail, and Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes on the town's recreational center trail (340 Recreation Park Rd.). These walks, she said, capture "the essence of Vermont by combining nature with exercise and education."
  • The South Burlington Public Library oversees a story walk in Wheeler Nature Park (1100 Dorset St.) Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman will be followed by Eric Seltzer's Space Cows. A story time is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 10:30 a.m.
  • The Lamoille Family Center (480 Cady's Falls Rd., Morrisville) hosts a story walk on woodsy trails, with August's title Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush by Iza Trapani. Family Center staffer Debbie Trombly created the story walk, with her husband's help, about five years ago after being inspired by a story walk at Shelburne Farms. Trombly changes the story seasonally. Completing the walk counts as an educational activity required for families receiving Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition services.
  • Marita Bathe-Schine, children's librarian at Lawrence Memorial Library in Bristol, posted Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell with illustrations by Melissa Iwai on the Bristol Green Playground. Bathe-Schine says that "moving while absorbing a story and returning to it multiple times" is a great activity for young children.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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