New Vermont ‘StoryWalk' Promotes Reading and Spending Time Outdoors

The concept, which is growing around the nation and world, was born in Vermont more than a decade ago

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A new addition to a public park in Burlington, Vermont, aims to promote both physical activity and reading in children with a new outdoor reading loop alongside the city’s famous recreation path.

The Fletcher Free Library is only able to offer limited services these days because of COVID-19, director Mary Danko said, but it was able to partner with the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department and Burlington City Arts to install a children’s book — under a protective clear layer mounted to sturdy panels — in Leddy Park.

You can take a short walk and enjoy the story, page by page, at each station.

“As a librarian, to be able to enjoy books and the outdoors at the same time is pretty special,” Danko said.

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She described the Burlington StoryWalk, as it is known, as a perfect way to extend at-home educations during the pandemic.

“I keep thinking about how kids have to be in front of a screen for their learning, and they’re not moving around as much, so it’s a way to incorporate learning but also with some movement,” Danko told NECN and NBC10 Boston Thursday.

The concept of a StoryWalk actually started through the Vermont Department of Health and the library in Vermont’s capital city, Montpelier, back in 2007. A Montpelier resident and a VDH chronic disease prevention specialist named Anne Ferguson worked with the Kellogg-Hubbard Public Library on an initiative to encourage families to stay active together.

Since 2007, the idea been replicated all over the country and even internationally. According to the library site, StoryWalks are now in all 50 states and in countries including Pakistan, Russia and South Korea.

The Kellogg-Hubbard Library has resources available online to assist in the creation of StoryWalks.

Organizers behind the Burlington StoryWalk indicated they suspect the pandemic now has even more communities considering the trails.

“It’s really great for this moment,” observed Jason Chin, a Burlington-area author and artist whose illustrations appear in the debut book used in the Burlington StoryWalk.

“Pie is for Sharing,” by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, is about sharing food, things or time with family and friends, Chin said.

“I hope it’s a new way for them to experience books and reading,” Chin said of future visitors to the Burlington StoryWalk, adding that his artwork illustrating the book depicts scenes from Burlington and views over Lake Champlain.

Danko said the city plans to swap out the books every so often on its StoryWalk, to keep the experience fresh for young outdoor readers.

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