The Story Behind StoryWalk
October 10, 2013

The Blue Hills Trailside Museum is staging a StoryWalk now through mid-November. If you don’t know what that means, in a nutshell, it’s when pages of a book are turned into signs that are then placed along a trail inviting visitors to follow the path of pages. We chatted with the creator of the project, Vermont resident Anne Fergenson, who explained more about her clever idea, now in its sixth year.

How did the project come about?

I started the project as a way to promote physical activity, early literacy, and family time together in nature. I wanted to create a project that would involve the parents along with the children that would be fun and draw people outside to enjoy parks and paths. I was pleasantly surprised to see how people of all ages enjoyed the project.

How can an organization get StoryWalk in their community?

Try to involve other members of the community in the project in different ways. This project combines the benefits of physical activity, time outdoors in nature, literacy, and family time. Because of that, many community partners are interested in it and it lends itself well to funding from different sources. Our senior center group translated a book into French for us. We have had the high school Spanish class translate one for us as well. A children’s nature center was inspired to write and illustrate their own books.

Where are popular spots for StoryWalk?

Post StoryWalk books on new trails and paths to draw people to walk there or introduce them to StoryWalk by posting the books along popular routes. In winter, books can be posted in store windows where many people walk because the sidewalks aren’t so slippery or outdoors along snowshoe trails.

What’s surprised you about the project?

One point of interest for me as well has been to watch how a range of community resources have worked together to bring it to their city or town.[For example] the library works with the recreation department, or the nature center works with the Children's Museum; it’s often part of a special event, like an art show, a poetry or storytelling event, a nature day, a Halloween activity. Sometimes a Boy Scout will post a StoryWalk as part of their Eagle Badge. Senior Girl Scouts have earned their Gold Award for posting a StoryWalk in their community as well—very exciting!

What books do you use?

I am quite a fan of David McPhail—he has beautifully illustrated books with story lines that easily start conversations with little ones about important messages like kindness, thoughtfulness, and peace. Some of the nature-based books are very popular as well including Ezra Jack Keats' Over in the Meadow and David Ezra Stein's Leaves.

The StoryWalk Project was created by Anne Ferguson and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. If you live in Vermont, you can borrow StoryWalk books for up to two weeks. If you don’t live in Vermont, visit their FAQ page for details on offering the program in your community.

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