StoryWalk Trails Combine Nature Hikes With Storytime

Read as you hike Triangle trails


Published:

A child enjoys a pop-up StoryWalk event at Brumley Nature Preserve in Chapel Hill.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Rosen, Lower School Librarian at Durham Academy

Imagine following the pages of a storybook along a nature trail, reading as you explore the outdoors. “Ten or eleven years ago, this idea was just kind of magic,” says Sean Higgins, interpretation and education manager at North Carolina State Parks. “I’m thrilled to see it pop up all over.”

As a community educator and parent, Higgins has joined individuals and communities across the country in his enthusiasm for StoryWalk trails: outdoor learning experiences that combine nature exploration with storytime.

The StoryWalk concept began in 2007 with Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont. A specialist in chronic disease prevention, Ferguson was looking for fun ways to get families outside and moving. She came up with the idea of separating out the pages of a children’s book and posting them along a local nature trail. The community responded with enthusiasm, so Ferguson began loaning out other StoryWalk books through Montpelier’s Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Eleven years later, StoryWalk trails have been installed in parks, on library campuses and along nature trails in all 50 states and 12 countries.



Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Brignac


How It Works

The basic StoryWalk concept is simple: Select a children’s book, take apart the pages, laminate them and post them along a trail so families can follow the trail from page to page, reading the story as they go. The process is perfectly legal as long as the pages are not altered in any way (including enlarging them). Making changes requires permission from the book’s copyright holder.

Within that basic framework, StoryWalk trails can vary widely. Durability is a prime concern for long-term StoryWalk installations. Partnership for Children, for example, recently installed a StoryWalk trail in Kinston. Because the installation is permanent, they ordered custom metal frames and posts that can withstand time and wear.

For a one-day StoryWalk event that Carolina Friends School, Durham Academy and Duke School set up in April at the George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve in Chapel Hill, the organizers simply laminated the pages of a book themselves and posted them on sticks.

“It doesn’t have to be that fancy,” says Higgins, who uses a set of portable StoryWalk stakes and signs to display books at trails and events in state parks across North Carolina. “It can be the laminated pages of a kids’ book hole-punched, with yarn tying them to trees. I’ve seen everything.”


Display Choices

A community’s goal for its StoryWalk trail affects presentation choices. In the Wilmington area, the New Hanover County Public Library System, for example, has set up four permanent StoryWalk trails across the county. These particular books offer move-along instructions that direct participants to move in certain ways while walking from one sign to the next.

One book, “I Got the Rhythm” by Connie Schofield-Morrison, instructs families to move their feet rhythmically on their way to one sign, and shake their hips with their arms in the air on the way to another. In this case, the library system has gotten permission from the book’s authors to alter the book’s pages. That process costs money, but it also fits well with local community goals, says Harry Tuchmayer, library director for New Hanover County Public Library System. The county welcomed the library system’s StoryWalk proposal, Tuchmayer says, because it “fit with one of our county’s initiatives. We’re trying to get people a little bit more active — physically active — and libraries are always looking for ways that we can coordinate with the county’s overall strategic plan. And getting people healthy and moving was one of their goals.” 

A StoryWalk trail’s purpose also helps coordinators choose which books to display. Librarians at the New Hanover County Library look for books they can adapt to include move-along directions in ways that make sense with the illustrations.

The North Carolina State Parks system, on the other hand, often seeks books compatible with particular educational themes or events. At Stone Mountain State Park, for example, the park system holds an annual Old-Fashioned Day and sets up a book called, “When I Was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant as part of that event. The parks system also chooses books according to each year’s educational theme. “This year is The Year of the Fish,” explains Higgins, “so ‘The Rainbow Fish’ is making it around to a few parks.”

Other display considerations might include how long the organizers want the trail to be, the amount of space available, and the ages of the people whom they expect will use the trail.


Why Install a StoryWalk?

Higgins appreciates StoryWalk trails in part because they are a practical way to get families moving. “I love how it gets kids excited so they run ahead like, ‘I wanna hike! I wanna get to the next one!’ he says. “But then instead of running out of view, there’s a natural break for something that gives you time to catch up to them.”

Jennelle Lewis, project development coordinator for Partnership for Children in Lenoir and Greene counties, says, “It’s for people of all ages, for families to get outdoors, to bond. It really connects early literacy and physical activity.”

Lewis also emphasizes StoryWalk trails’ potential to bring people together. “I think it will help build communities,” she says. “You just sit and talk about what you see — do the activities at the bottom of the posts. It’s just a really great way to engage children and families.”


Bringing StoryWalk to Your Community

Want to bring StoryWalk to a trail near you? Vist kellogghubbard.org/storywalk and consult your local library and other literacy or education-oriented organizations about working together to install one in your community. Learn more at vermontlibraries.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/bringingsw.pdf.


StoryWalk Trails in North Carolina

Temporary StoryWalk trails pop up all the time, especially in North Carolina State Parks, so keep your eyes open for StoryWalk events in your community. Here are locations of permanent StoryWalk installations in North Carolina that are free for public use:

Alamance County
North Park: 849 Sharpe Rd., Burlington
Beth Schmidt Park: 2150 Elon Park Dr., Elon

Ashe County
Ashe County Park: 527 Ashe Park Rd., Jefferson

Haywood County
Canton Branch Library (mini StoryWalk): 11 Pennsylvania Ave., Canton
Vance Street Park: 430 Vance St., Waynesville

Lenoir County
Pearson Park: 210 W. Gordon St., Kinston

Macon County
Little Tennessee River Greenway: 573 E. Main St., Franklin
Horst Winkler Nature Trail at The Bascom: 323 Franklin Rd., Highlands

Mecklenburg County
Independence Park: 300 Hawthorne Lane, Charlotte
Seversville Park: 530 Bruns Ave., Charlotte
Grier Heights Park: 3110 Leroy St., Charlotte

Moore County
Southern Pines Public Library: 170 W Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines

New Hanover County
Hugh MacRae Park: 314 Pine Grove Dr., Wilmington
Smith Creek Park: 633 Shenandoah St., Wilmington
New Hanover County Arboretum: 6206 Oleander Dr., Wilmington
Carolina Beach Lake Park: 400 S. Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach

Onslow County
Onslow Pines Park: 1244 Onslow Pines Rd., Jacksonville
Hubert By-Pass Park: 220 Hubert Blvd., Hubert
Stump Sound Park: 1771 NC-172, Sneads Ferry
Deppe Park: 5472 New Bern Hwy., Mayesville
Richlands Steed Park: 278 Francktown Rd., Richlands

Watauga County

Memorial Park: 1036 Main St., Blowing Rock
The Tot Lot: 231 Complex Dr., Boone
Old Cove Creek School (spring/summer): 207 Dale Adams Rd., Sugar Grove

Wilkes County
W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir: 499 Reservoir Rd., Wilkesboro


Elizabeth Brignac is a freelance writer and mother of two adventurous boys. She lives in Cary.

 

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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
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  Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

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