Things you expect to see at parks: playgrounds, greenspace, shelters. Something not as common? A StoryWalk®. But that’s just what you’ll encounter along the walking paths at Belmont Park. StoryWalks are free, interactive exhibits in local parks and trails that encourage early literacy, healthy lifestyles, and family interactions through storytelling. This first of five was officially unveiled on this past Monday.
“We’re so excited for the first permanent StoryWalk display to be unveiled at Belmont Park. Our goal is for at least one park in every corner of the city to house a display,” Susan Herndon-Powell, PLAY Roanoke Outdoor Programming Supervisor, said.
How It Started
Herndon-Powell has always been passionate about getting folks outside. Of course things like leading paddling classes and camping trips is a big part of her job, but she also understands that sometimes outdoor recreation is simply being outside. While looking for ways to encourage more folks to interact with nature, she came across StoryWalks. These displays encourage kids and families to visit their local parks and read a story while outside. They promote early literacy, encourage physical activity, and are free and accessible to all. Immediately sold on the idea, Herndon-Powell has since led the charge to bring them to local parks. She’s partnered with Roanoke Public Libraries for the books to display, recruited staff to make the stands, and searched for sponsors to help fund these exhibits.
How It’s Going
This first installment was made possible through a generous sponsorship from RunAbout Sports Roanoke. To owner Ally Bowersock, this sponsorship seemed like a no-brainer. “We are thrilled to sponsor a community collaboration that blends so many healthy things: outdoor play, reading, socialization, and physical activity,” she said. “We could not have contributed without the support of our running community helping us through the most challenging circumstances—it’s great to see a permanent physical representation of what supporting your community can do.”
Bowersock’s rising-tides-lifts-all-ships mentality appears to be contagious as PLAY Roanoke has secured a sponsorship for their second StoryWalk. Thanks to Book City Roanoke, folks can enjoy another exhibit in Washington Park in the next few months. “Thank you so much to RunAbout Sports for funding the first display and to Book City Roanoke for funding the second. Community partners such as these are bringing more families outside to enjoy our amazing parks and read fun books,” Herndon-Powell said.
Citizens are encouraged to visit these StoryWalks throughout the year during park hours, and the Department plans to update the books quarterly. The first book for families to enjoy is “Cat’s Colors” by Airlie Anderson.
How Can I Help?
The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. If you’re interested in sponsoring a remaining StoryWalk, please reach out to Susan Herndon-Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-853-2236.