The Oxford StoryWalk has been encouraging families and children to read and engage in the outdoors since January, but new additions in June aim to get kids more involved.
Rebecca Smith, of Oxford Lane Library, was a key contributor in bringing the project to Oxford. After taking inspiration from StoryWalks in other Ohio communities, Smith felt that the outdoor literary adventure would be a great addition to get families out of Oxford. February marked the first month of the StoryWalk at Oxford Community Park.
“We hoped people learned to read in a different setting and to enjoy and encourage hiking and nature while reading with family or children,” Smith said. “Being outside in nature gives you that feeling of calm and a bonus to the project, I think the location is absolutely perfect.”
The StoryWalk project was created in 2007 to Kellogg Hubbard Library in Vermont as a means of integrating literacy, exercise and outdoor enjoyment in young children and families. StoryWalk includes placing pages of children’s picture books on stakes in an outdoor path for reader enjoyment.
Anne Ferguson, the original creator of StoryWalk, came up with the idea after she wanted to create an activity for kids and parents to be physically active, she wrote in a document listed in the Kellogg Hubbard Library.
“I knew I wanted to create something where the parents had to be as active as the kids,” Ferguson wrote. “Active parents have active children, and physical activity is a key part of preventing chronic disease.
Back in Oxford, Smith said that to make the project more of an interaction with children, the stories selected reflect the current weather in Oxford, ask questions or encourage readers to observe their surroundings. In February, for example, the favorite story was “Snuggle Down Deep,” a book about animals hibernating for the winter, asking if readers could see animal tracks in the snow.
“We’re trying to get kids to engage in nature,” Smith said. “Today, I feel like the kids are spending so much time indoors, and it’s good to give them the opportunity to go out and have fun.”
New addition during the month of June allows readers to go on a scavenger hunt using an activity sheet to find certain pictures on the issues, finding all six pictures gives readers the choice of a penguin toy or a lollipop flamingo and inscribed them in a design for a larger gift bag.
Jennifer Bulanda, professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of Miami and a resident of Oxford, took her family to the StoryWalk.
“My 5 year old loved the activity of finding and counting the different birds in the different places,” Bulanda said. “It’s a great new activity because it combines the ways parents try to emphasize reading, physical activity and a love of nature.
Rebecca Smith is hoping the combination of the scavenger hunt, warmer weather and an easing of COVID-19 restrictions will encourage families to venture onto the StoryWalk and engage more with the Oxford Lane Library.
“I think it’s increasing with more and more people entering the library after the scavenger hunt is implemented,” Smith said. “We’re seeing more comments on Facebook posts with parents saying they had fun with their kid, and I think that’s the best part of this project. “