StoryWalk: A Fun, Educational Activity for All Ages in Patriots Park
By Linda Viertel—
National StoryWalk week is Nov. 15-19, but Barbara Cohen, Warner Library’s bilingual children’s librarian, and Patricia Cohn, head of the Children’s Reading Room, partnering with the TaSH (Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow Farmers Market) as well as Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow village administrations, began planning for a new experience in early fall.
Food, Food, Fabulous Food, a bilingual storybook written by Kate Clynes and published by Language Lizard, will be on view via 13 story boards posted along a popular walkway in Patriots Park during farmers market hours Nov. 13th and 20th.
Each book page, including images and text in both English and Spanish, will be displayed as participants walk the pathway on a self-guided reading tour. After each market time, the story boards will be relocated to Warner Library grounds, where they can be viewed inside the library’s stairwell gallery and the children’s room and outside in the children’s garden. All 13 boards will be spread throughout the spaces with the added technology of a “pen pal pen” available during StoryWalk week. Language Lizard provides the pen, which reads the text out loud in English and Spanish when it is touched to each story board. Visitors are invited to sign up for this technology for interior viewing, but, of course, all are welcome to view the boards without the pen at any time.
When TaSH approached Cohen, who had participated in story time at the market for years, market board members were eager to amplify one of the market’s goals: to have bilingual interaction and activities at the TaSH. It was a natural fit for Cohen and the TaSH to begin planning StoryWalk.
Cohen chose the book and went to work creating the story boards, which were ready and installed initially at 9 a.m. on Oct. 9, in time for that day’s market. But, when Cohen came to work on Oct. 12, the story boards had disappeared from Patriots Park over the weekend. Undaunted, she re-purchased all the materials, recreated the boards from scratch and then started up again on Nov. 6.
“The value of StoryWalk,” Cohen said, “is that it is a safe and educational literacy tool, especially during the time of a pandemic. StoryWalk is a way to connect the community with resources that libraries and organizations like TaSH can partner on for the benefit of the entire community.”
“Libraries all over the country are doing this project,” she added. “It includes all walks of life and promotes healthy activity. Many community members and patrons have participated already.”
“And, an added bonus for participants,” Cohen continued, “is that families can pick up a bilingual book bag, courtesy of Warner Library and TaSH with literacy goodies such as bookmarks (courtesy of Language Lizard), and a bilingual songbook courtesy of the Westchester Library System.”
For years, Cohen had been thinking about creating a project like StoryWalk as part of her outreach goals. “I am so glad TaSH came to the library and had community partners’ support. Everybody had similar ideas and goals, and it’s been wonderful to be able to connect to the community,” she said.
As a measure of their success, the Warner Library/TaSH StoryWalk was just chosen to be featured by the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services Nov. 15-19 for StoryWalk week on its social media outlets. There were 529 submissions from 49 states and several countries.
Starting next spring, they will all go to work to begin creating StoryWalk’s second iteration, hopefully in time for Children’s Day in April. Children’s Day at Warner is a big event each year that promotes children’s literacy and diversity. The event has been online for the past two years due to COVID, but Cohen is hopeful that this spring, Children’s Day will be an in-person experience. And, she’s already chosen the book for the StoryWalk project.
Editor’s note: The StoryWalk® project/concept was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt., and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library.