Thanks to the Capital District Library, Ingham County parks have been transformed into literary forests where parents can take their children on a reading safari – away from cell phones and video games.
Since 2016, CADL has installed 11 reading and walking sites called Sites StoryWalks. Each stop encourages parents to take their children outside while developing early reading skills.
The concept, which is a national copyright program, is simple: Children’s story books are mounted and displayed on a sign that parents and children can read while exploring local parks.
According to Scott Duimstra, executive director of CADL, the library system has StoryWalks at various locations in Greater Lansing, including Glenn Droscha Park, Beacon Park, Veterans Memorial Park, Orlando Park, Valhalla Park, and Michigan 4- H Yara Gardens. A complete list of sites is available online at cadl.org/storywalks.
Duimstra said StoryWalks are just one part of CADL’s summer goals for area youth.
“The goal is to combat the so-called ‘summer slide,’ where students lose academic skills during the summer,” Duimstra said. “The project is one of the many reading programs we run every summer, including the Summer Reading Challenge, which encourages summer reading. Last year, the summer program saw 5 million minutes read. This year, we are aiming for 10 million minutes.”
National studies underline this idea showing that reading just four to six books during the summer can help reduce the “summer slump.” Duimstra said parents and children can still sign up (at cadl.org) for the summer reading challenge, which runs through Aug. 6. The program, which also encourages people to read to others, includes everyone from infants to adults. Prizes: Participants are eligible for prizes awarded throughout the summer.
“I was involved in the summer school program as a kid and it had a huge impact on me,” Duimstra said. “The StoryWalks and the Summer Reading Program help show the importance of reading and limiting screen time.”
(Author’s note: In high school in Bay City, I signed up to read 50 books over the summer and received a pin from the Bay City Public Library, which I still love.)
Visitors to StoryWalks parks can check out a variety of books for young readers, including: “Pete the Cat: Five Ducks,” “Splat the Cat,” “In the Tall Grass,” “The Three Little Pigs” and “Planting”. Prairie Pocket.” Duimstra added: “We also make sure the books have a variety of characters and a variety of stories.” a collection of about 50 carefully arranged children’s books. To do this, CADL breaks three books back for each trip and places the original pages under Plexiglass that are mounted on wooden columns. Typically, there are 17 reading marks for each book, and each follows a path.
He added that each route costs $2,000 to $6,000, depending on the complexity of the site and that there has been only one vandalism (on the Lansing Riverwalk) since the program began.
In addition to the actual pages of the children’s book, each symbol shows actions that can be used while moving from one symbol to another. For example, children can be encouraged to sing while walking to the next place.
StoryWalks is copyrighted by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, who developed the program in 2007 to get families outside of school. In 2016, the first StoryWalks were installed in Haslett’s Orlando Park at the suggestion of retired Haslett Library Director Ann Chapman.
A national study shows that about 500 libraries across the country offer programs for trips, walks and reading along different sites such as lakes and greens – even in the downtown business district. In Boone, North Carolina, local businesses posted StoryWalks in their storefronts. In Brooklyn, the library posted a special Latinx Month Story reading sign. Since its inception, StoryWalks has developed sites in all 50 States and 11 other countries.
As for local parks, all participating parks have free admission except for Hawk Island, which requires an Ingham County Park fee.