On the Bright Side: StoryWalk encourages kids to read on the go

Allison CollinsThe Unadilla StoryWalk takes readers on a route around the Community Field grounds at 193 Main St. in the village.

The Unadilla Public Library is taking early literacy to the streets.

The Unadilla StoryWalk, designed by an area Eagle Scout and funded by Creating Healthy Schools and Communities, a five-year grant through the New York State Department of Health, was unveiled in mid-April. The walk includes 18 stops, each with a page of a well-loved children’s book, leading to the library at 193 Main St.

Interim Unadilla Public Library Director Irene Murphy said the walk has two purposes.

“It’s a fun way to promote reading and movement for whole family,” she said. “It encourages people of all ages to get out and walk, while enjoying a children’s story.”

Stories, Murphy said, will change monthly. Featured first was Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” StoryWalk, developed by a librarian in 2012, originated in Montpelier, Vermont.

Maureen Blanchard, community coordinator with Creating Healthy Schools and Communities, said providing about $700 to create the walk was a natural fit.

“What I like about it is that it incorporates two important things: promoting early reading with kids and families and walking and getting out and being active, which is what my grant is really about,” she said. “Any time I can get people out walking, even just to stroll and read the pages of a book, it’s a win.”

CHSC also has partnerships with Charlotte Valley, Jefferson, Richfield Springs, Sidney, Unatego and Walton school districts, Blanchard said.

Blanchard said plans for the Unadilla StoryWalk got underway about a year ago.

“I had the idea and approached the library with it and, in talking with (Unadilla mayor) Dave Welch, he suggested (involving) the Boy Scouts,” she said. “I reached out … and got linked up with Calvin (Haney) and his troop.”

Haney, an 18-year-old Unatego senior and nine-year Boy Scout from Wells Bridge, said he, too, appreciated the focus of the walk. Haney, a member of Troop 1, said, in choosing Eagle Scout projects, scouts review options presented by a Scoutmaster and select the project to which they best relate.

“I grew up loving reading, but I kind of fell out of it and I really regret that now,” he said. “The same is true of exercise. I used to do more sports, but now I don’t, and I want to see kids do more of both.”

“This incorporates getting exercise outside, but also engaging (kids) in reading, so I figured it’s more productive than having them sit on a couch playing Fortnite,” Haney said.

Haney said he researched other StoryWalks for design ideas, while adding modifications to better waterproof each stop and increase longevity.

“We had to do a little fundraising for the lamination of the pages and the books,” he said, “but the main lump sum was the grant and I planned the design around that budget.”

Murphy said community responses to the walk have been positive.

“I’ve heard people that have gone through say they liked it,” she said. Murphy welcomed community members to leave StoryWalk feedback in a notebook inside the library.

As a StoryWalk complement, Murphy said, she will introduce children’s story time at 10:30 a.m. Thursdays through summer.

For more information or library hours, visit unadillalibrary.org or find “Unadilla Public Library” on Facebook.