By SARA ARTHURS
Reading a story and playing in the park are among many children’s favorite activities. Now, they can do both at once in Findlay.
The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, in partnership with the Hancock Park District and the city of Findlay, has installed a “StoryWalk” at Riverside Park.
Park visitors, as they walk clockwise around the walk, will encounter 17 display posts containing pages of a children’s picture book. So, by the time they have come full circle, they will have read a book in its entirety.
It’s designed as “a fun and innovative way for people of all ages to exercise their bodies, as well as their minds,” states a library press release.
StoryWalk was originally created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. Since then, it has spread to libraries around the country.
Findlay-Hancock County Public Library Director Jeff Winkle said he’d heard of the concept years ago, and thought it would be a good idea to bring to life in Findlay. Then last fall, he went to a conference that featured a session on StoryWalks. He saw that “it was something that we could do pretty easily” with the cooperation of the park district.
So, they ordered posts from a company in Wooster and started choosing books.
The first book is “Tiny and the Big Dig,” written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Matt Myers. The display includes an autograph from the author, who visited the Mazza Museum recently and agreed to sign a sheet of paper specifically for StoryWalk.
Children’s picture books are usually 32 pages, so the first display post explains what the StoryWalk is, while the remaining 16 display posts each feature two pages. (The current story had one extra page, so one post has three pages on it.)
Winkle said the book will change each month, around the first of the month, depending on the day of the week and the weather.
Park District Director Gary Pruitt said Riverside was chosen as the StoryWalk site as it is centrally located and attracts a lot of visitors.
He said the library offered to sponsor the displays and manage the project, but asked the park district to provide the labor of installing the posts. They also communicated with the city, which owns most of the park, although the park district manages it.
StoryWalk opened Thursday. It starts at the parking lot closest to the waterfall, then moves clockwise through the park.
Winkle couldn’t give a precise length in miles, but said that without stopping to read a story, it would take about seven to 10 minutes to walk the route.
Pruitt said while he was walking the potential route and getting it ready, people stopped and asked, “Hey, what are you doing?” Even adults who were wandering the park without children said it sounded like a good idea.
He said people see a value in reading a storybook.
“And on top of that, they’re exercising,” he said. “And on top of that, they’re enjoying nature. So I don’t know how you beat that.”
The displays are designed to make children think. For example, on one display the dog is digging up different kinds of bones, such as “Fish bone!”, “Wishbone!” and “Phone bone!” (a bone held to his ear like a phone). A note affixed to this display asks, “What other ‘— bone’ words can you think of?”
So far, StoryWalk seems to be attracting interest. During The Courier’s visit to the park Monday, a 2-year-old making her way through the story was engrossed enough that she ran up excitedly to see the next display.
Winkle said the library is selling sponsorships for posts, an idea he borrowed from another library. The cost of each post is $450. He has already heard from some potential sponsors, and expects to eventually get all the posts sponsored. So, the cost to the library is just buying books each month to cut up and mount in Plexiglass.
For more information about StoryWalk, or to sponsor a display post, contact the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library at 419-422-1712.