What is a StoryWalk®?
The StoryWalk® concept was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and was developed with the help of Rachel Senechal, Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Through their collective efforts, a StoryWalk® has been installed in “all 50 states and 12 foreign countries.” Typically, pages from a children’s book are installed along a path. As you stroll along the path, you’re directed to the next page in the story. Pages frequently are accompanied by activities or information.
StoryWalk® projects have broad appeal: build community, physical activity, reading/literacy, family time. They inspire families, educators and caregivers to take children out of doors and to support the development of lifetime learners and contributing members of a community.
Why did we install a StoryWalk®?
Sutton Free Library (SFL) is always looking for new ways to connect with members of the community who might not otherwise stop by the building. A StoryWalk® is a great way to invite these residents "into" the library. Additionally, it gives the library a chance to expand its footprint without significant construction costs. What we love about this program is that it gets us outside of our four walls.
We chose to install permanent stations to support creating a long-term use, sustainable program for our community. Our priorities will include: equity and inclusion; family and community engagement; parks and green space access; education; and out-of-school time. As a free community resource, often operating as an agency of city government, libraries can reach citizens who otherwise might not have access to quality experiences.
Having the SFL StoryWalk® located on library property allows for a centrally located community space that all residents can equitably enjoy. Some StoryWalks® meander through forests, some are located in storefront windows inviting residents to support local businesses, some are focused solely on children's early literacy development, while others are focused on movement and physical fitness. The SFL StoryWalk® will be a combination of all of these; celebrating Sutton's living history, visual arts, music, movement, poetry, literacy, conservation, and anything else residents would like to see.
We believe that this StoryWalk® installation is a win-win for everyone: families will play outside together, having fun and creating memories, children will build school-readiness skills, patrons will help connect to and feel ownership of their community, residents will come discover the adjacent waterfall and the wildlife within all while experiencing fresh air and appreciating our beautiful town that we're all so fortunate to live in. We are a community institution, and believe that this can turn into a multi-use, multi-generational gathering space, something that is sorely needed in Sutton. We believe this installation is one small step toward moving Sutton in that direction. As our town motto states: Enter Here to Be and Find a Friend!
How do we envision using SFL's StoryWalk®?
The StoryWalk® project, naturally lends itself to creative adaptations. Here are just a few ideas we’ve come up with so far. This walk can be enjoyed year-round minus periods of extreme snow accumulation.
Books to complement a library or community event/celebration/season.
Include song recommendations on the StoryWalk® to accompany the story. Scan a QR code to listen to the song.
Place crafts outside with the StoryWalk®, or provide related Take and Makes at the library
Ask a high school foreign language class/ student to translate a book into the language they’re studying.
Use QR codes to link to the library, surveys, additional activities etc.
Math and Coding strolls.
Promote physical fitness by having a different exercise, yoga pose, or dance move at each station.
Display artwork by children or other patrons.
Invite patrons to write/ illustrate their own story for display.
Sutton Historical Trivia.
Curate a poetry exhibit by local submission.
Creative ideas, suggestions and submissions are always welcome! This is a community space and a community project.
The First SFL StoryWalk® Display
The first SFL StoryWalk® display will be in the traditional format of pages of a picture book spaced out along the walk. This display will be for the month of December, 2021. The New Hampshire State Library (NHSL) in collaboration with the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the New Hampshire Humanities awarded SFL with a mini-grant for 2 Copies Sy Montgomery's book "Becoming A Good Creature".
The objectives of the grant in addition to StoryWalk® programs is 1) storytelling in New Hampshire communities, 2) encourage arts programming in communities that have offered limited or no arts programs, 3) introduce library audiences to a variety of storytelling forms, and 4) strengthen the partnership between the arts community and public libraries. Storytelling programs must be completed by December 31, 2021.
Why 19 posts? The average industry standard for a children's picture book is 32 pages. For this reason, many StoryWalks® are 20-24 posts long. We felt having 19 posts would not only allow enough display space for picture books pages, but also allow for an average of 8 feet between each post, thus keeping ample space to walk up to the waterfall's edge.
Why are they in a straight line? After discussing many layout options on this small piece of land, it was decided that this placement would be more visually appealing than haphazard scattering. We also took strong consideration into other property factors: keeping lawn maintenance as simple as possible, avoiding septic, the well and boulders from the stream embankment, and maintaining open spaces for larger gatherings of people.
We’re honored to share that this StoryWalk® will be dedicated in loving memory of, long-time Board of Trustee member, Beth Cernek. In addition to being a proud advocate of Sutton Free Library, Beth was an art teacher in the Kearsarge district, an avid nature enthusiast, loved spending time in the garden, and adored the Sutton community.
SFL StoryWalk® Project Installation Timeline
SFL applied for, and was awarded with, a $1,208.00 New Hampshire State Library IMLS ARPA Formulaic Sub-grant. These funds were then generously matched by both the Friends of Sutton Free Library and the SFL Board of Trustees (BOT). Posts and cement were donated by LaValleys of Newport. Funding did not come from the SFL operating budget and therefore no monies were raised by taxation.
The land that SFL sits on is owned by the town of Sutton. Therefore, we requested permission from the Sutton Select Board, and were granted said permission. This is all included in the Select Board minutes from July 19th. At this meeting, BOT Chair Nancy Heckel provided exact specs of the posts and mounts to the Select Board along with photo examples. Once approval was granted, she made sure there were no other steps we needed to follow before beginning the installation.
DigSafe was contacted. The site was marked, visited by DigSafe and given the approval to dig.
SFL Library Director noticed in the Select Board minutes from August 30th that a Dam Safety Engineer from the Department of Environmental Services had looked at the bridge issue and the ledge overlooking the stream/ dam. They seemed to have recommended that the town remove the overgrowth on both sides of the stream as well as a 15 ft. setback be considered for any new construction.
The Select Board was again contacted by SFL to see if we needed to adhere to a 15 ft. setback and/or if an alternate site should be considered. The Town Administrator again responded that we were clear to install the StoryWalk® as previously approved by the Select Board. This can be found in the September 20th Select Board Minutes. Being that the town, not the library, owns the land that the library sits on, we also inquired into the removal of the brush and overgrowth mentioned by the Department of Environmental Services. We were informed this would have to be taken care of by volunteers if we wanted it cleaned up.
Thanks to volunteer efforts over two weekends, installation was completed. Elizabeth Geraghty and Ric Werme removed overgrowth and invasive plants on the lawn side of the fence; thus improving all views to the brook and waterfall. Christopher Geraghty, Benjamin Prime, and Kristin Prime dug the holes. The posts were placed by Christopher Geraghty on October 24th. The storyboard mounts were then installed on November 6th, again by Christopher Geraghty.
Once the pressure treated posts are weathered they will be painted black. Anti-glare film will be looked into for the faces of the storyboard mounts.
** In addition to the above mentioned meeting minutes of the Select Board, all corrected & approved minutes from SFL Board of Trustee meetings can be found on the Town of Sutton website. StoryWalk® discussions at SFL Trustee meetings began in June, 2021 and have been discussed and included in every month’s meeting minutes since that time.