By Carol Felicio
How do you get to know your community? Most of the time, it is the accumulation of little interactions like taking out the trash or getting your mail. However, these are short and sometimes impersonal connections. To really build a community, it is more effective to organize family-friendly events. A StoryWalk® is a simple idea and a great way to start building your community.
The History of StoryWalk®
Anne Ferguson, of Vermont, believed in the mantra “partners, partners, partners.” She created the StoryWalk® program in 2007 hoping to promote, “early literacy, physical activity, and family time together in nature.” A StoryWalk® involves taking pages from a children’s book and posting them around a park or nature area. By creating a short route to follow, families are able to explore nature and develop their children’s early literacy skills.
Programs like the StoryWalk® are most successful with the organization of community partnerships. In order to meaningfully connect with your neighbors, it is necessary to involve your state and local parks, schools, nature centers, child care centers, farmer’s markets, walking path promoters, special event promotions, and most of all, libraries. In Vermont, Ferguson was able to collaborate with the Vermont Arts Council and her local library. In Boston, StoryWalk® resulted from the cooperation of both public and private organizations.
Lessons From a Multilingual StoryWalk® in Boston
This past spring, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department collaborated with the Boston Public Library and the Highland Street Foundation, the New England Patriots Foundation, and Xfinity to create their Multilingual StoryWalk®. They featured Language Lizard’s bilingual books in their program and focused on building their community by affirming its diversity. Local families enjoyed nature walks while reading bilingually in their native languages and English.
A StoryWalk® is most successful when the book connects with the community. These books must be elementary yet interesting, so families of all ages can engage in the activity. Organizing a StoryWalk® is a great first step towards building your community. Once you’ve started making those important community partnerships, you can organize even more events that celebrate the multicultural diversity in your neighborhood.
As part of Boston’s Multilingual StoryWalk®, Language Lizard provided bilingual stories in six different languages:
Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner
Augustus goes on a journey to find his lost smile and discovers so much about the natural world: shiny insects, birds, mountains, fish, and even a rainstorm. This beautifully illustrated story celebrates a great connection to nature.
Let’s Go to the Park by Kate Clynes
This multicultural board book lets young children explore the area in which they live. The bold illustrations show the people and animals they will meet, and objects that they will see and hear. The simple text is just right for young readers who are starting to recognize words.
Errol’s Garden by Gillian Hibbs
Errol loves gardening and has filled his home with beautiful plants, but he does not have a real garden. He dreams about an outdoor space where he can grow things.
Listen, Listen by Phillis Gershator
This beautifully illustrated story explores the different seasons, and the amazing sights and sounds of nature. The effective use of rhyming, alliteration and onomatopoeic words makes this book especially enjoyable to read aloud.
All these stories connect with nature while also exploring multicultural themes. By reminding us that we all share in nature, we are able to strengthen our community partnerships.
Carol Felicio holds a Master of the Arts in Education Policy and Social Analysis from Teachers College Columbia University and joined Language Lizard, LLC to continue her passion for early childhood and bilingual education. Previously, she has taught as an ESL instructor in both Spain and South Korea.