What better way to enjoy a book than by reading outside while exercising your mind and your body? That’s the idea behind StoryWalk, a creative and educational all-weather activity popping up in Montreal parks that combines three of our favourite family activities: reading together, spending time in nature, and physical activity.
To create a StoryWalk, pages from a children’s book with easy-to-read text and great illustrations are taken apart, laminated, and attached to stakes along a path or trail to create an incentive for families to read—and move—together.
StoryWalk books have been placed in parks, on library grounds, along forest trails, in seniors’ residences, on main streets, and in other outdoor community spaces by libraries in hundreds of communities across the U.S. and Canada. They help to inspire an interest in language and literacy, while encouraging healthy outdoor activity for both children and adults. Best of all, it’s free to enjoy and available to everyone!
Created by Anne Ferguson in 2007 with the help of Rachel Senechal from Vermont’s Kellogg-Hubbard Library, the StoryWalk project came about while Ferguson was working as a chronic disease prevention specialist at the Vermont Department of Health.
Physical activity is key to chronic disease prevention. Because parents’ physical activity is linked to that of their children, Ferguson wanted to create an activity that would inspire people of all ages to move together.
In Montreal, StoryWalk has been a part of the Westmount Public Library’s resident outreach programs since 2016, featuring children’s stories from local authors in Westmount Park, as well as panels that showed historic postcards from Westmount.
Julie-Anne Cardella, director of library services at the Westmount library, said that because of the positive feedback and popularity of the summer walks, the library is now offering the program year-round.
“It is heartwarming to see how people of all ages enjoy storytelling,” Cardella said.
Related read: Study: Active parents have more active kids
Combining physical activities while being exposed to nature (green exercise) has been proven to lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem, and have an overall positive effect on all aspects of a person’s health.
If your town doesn’t have a StoryWalk, you can help families build physical literacy and foster children’s early reading skills by contacting your local library, museum, arboretum, or school about setting up a similar program. You can learn more about how to bring StoryWalk to your community through the Kellogg-Hubbard Library website.
If you do have a StoryWalk near you, you can get even more out of the activity and encourage physical literacy by incorporating some of Active for Life’s movement skills while moving from page to page along the path.
Pretend you’re a family of elephants and work on balance and coordination as you stomp along to the next page. Get on your hands and knees for a bear walk, or play follow the leader to the end of the book.
Photos courtesy of Christine Latreille.