Reading in the park, with a twist, on county storywalk

Article written by Mary Metten, Health and Well-being Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

A couple weeks ago, I sat in my office and ripped pages out of a book until it was completely disassembled. It was such a strange feeling, removing the pages just felt wrong.

Luckily my goal was not to ruin a perfectly good book. I was beginning a new project for people in the community to enjoy a Curious George story, through a StoryWalk.

Literacy, Activity, and Engagement

Literacy in early childhood serves many lifelong benefits. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) specifies that research shows reading with young children provides healthy time together and offers benefits like increased vocabulary, curiosity, memory, positive associations with reading and books, and opportunity to build listening skills.

Physical activity can be executed in many ways. It does not have to be heart-pumping activities like running or playing sports. Walking holds many great benefits for people of all ages.

The CDC details regular physical activity helps children improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, increase lean body mass, and reduces risk of developing negative health conditions.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education have guidance stressing the importance of strong family engagement, stating it to be central in promoting healthy development and wellness. This includes social-emotional development, preparation for school and transitions, and supporting academic achievement.

StoryWalk

A StoryWalk plots out an entire children’s book throughout a specific distance or area. The original Storywalk was created by Anne Ferguson in Vermont over 10 years ago.

Her initial goals were centered on ways to increase physical activity and find something for families to do in natural settings.

In 2007, Ferguson partnered with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library to create StoryWalk books. Presently, StoryWalks have been replicated all over the United States and other countries.

Combining the themes of early literacy, family engagement, and physical activity, a StoryWalk excellently represents all three.

Is your child reluctant to get moving? Perhaps the desire to know what happens next will keep them motivated and otherwise distracted.

Is your child reluctant to read? The half-mile walk may space pages out to keep frustration levels down.

There are unique elements for reading while you are in a beautiful setting, like a park. Extension Kenosha County’s inaugural StoryWalk, Curious George Saves His Pennies, has the additional element of addressing money management skills. Beginning to discuss money early and often will help children understand these key ideas and use them in life.

Come out to visit the story

Our StoryWalk is currently placed along Kenosha County’s Petrifying Springs Park multi-use trail, in the North Woods section, which is just north of County Highway A.

The book begins inside the western entrance of the North Woods; that section of the trail is roughly a half mile. It will be placed there through the first couple weeks in August. Please contact mary.metten@wisc.edu with any questions or if you would like to host the StoryWalk in the future.

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