Magazine article Parks & Recreation

How I Did It: A Tale of Fitness

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

How I Did It: A Tale of Fitness

Article excerpt

A unique literacy-and-exercise program in Vermont tells a story of active lifestyles.

"I know you planned this for little kids, but I'm 55 and you just made this big kid's day."

This quote is typical of the feedback that StoryWalk has generated in Vermont since its creation one year ago.

The idea for StoryWalk was inspired by one of my coworkers. She had just returned from a lunch-time walk and reported seeing bits of a story written in chalk on the sidewalk. She knew that I like creating fun ways to motivate people to become active. The vision for a story that could be read while walking led me to create StoryWalk.

StoryWalk is a program that combines physical fitness, literacy, and fun. I select a children's book with great illustrations, minimal text, and an interesting story line. I then purchase two copies of the book, remove all of the pages, mount each page individually on colored card stock, and laminate each page.

I use a staple gun to secure each page to a stake. (Note: The state of Vermont children's librarian assured me that copyright laws were not violated as long as I didn't make photocopies or alter the original images.) The stakes are spaced equidistantly along the length of a bike path or wooded trail. Each complete StoryWalk consists of no fewer than 30 stakes.

The first StoryWalk was installed at Montpelier's Hubbard Park, a lovely, large park adjacent to Vermont's State House. I recruited the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library as community partners. Both Nancy Schulz, director of the coalition, and Rachel Senechal, program and development director for the library, assisted with installation, publicity, book searches, and brainstorming.

Together, the three of us have worked to spread the word about StoryWalk, which has appeared in more than two dozen communities in Vermont and about a half-dozen other states. The idea is that adults will bring children to the StoryWalk to get exercise and have fun reading together.

A comment book is placed at the end of the StoryWalk along with literature about the coalition and the library. We collect data on how many people experience StoryWalk to include in grant applications. We also receive comments on how to improve StoryWalk.

The people at Bear Pond Books, a local independent bookstore in Montpelier, have been helpful in suggesting and ordering good books. …

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