Next week, November 15–19, the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) and Let’s Move in Libraries will host a week-long event celebrating the inspiring work of libraries that spearhead StoryWalk® programs*—promoting literacy, reading, health, exercise and movement in communities and neighborhoods across the United States and the world. StoryWalk® Week will take place on ABOS’ and Let’s Move in Libraries’ social media channels. Our own version of a StoryWalk, our interactive Story Strolls, will be featured in the StoryWalk® Week Celebration!

Our Outreach Services serve a large and diverse community of preschool and elementary school families in Bolingbrook. We visit local elementary schools with our Bookmobile and hold community storytimes at IKEA, the Bolingbrook Historical Museum, the Park District, local preschools and daycare centers and at special community events held throughout the year—all to ensure that children successfully develop language and literacy skills and to help bridge the language gap between home and school often experienced by culturally diverse students and families.

In 2014, we began offering Story Strolls in several of our local parks each summer as a way to combine the benefits of physical activity, time outdoors in nature, early literacy and family time. It also became a great way to encourage families to sign up for our annual Summer Adventure because they could earn three points toward their adventure just by attending (one point for reading, one point for attending an event and one point for visiting a local park). At each Story Stroll, we set up pages (temporarily) along the paths in the same manner as traditional Story Walks, and our Outreach staff also provides a mini activity at every page as they lead families through the story: a puppet show, a flannel board rhyme, sign language, yoga activity, shaker egg song or an activity song (Outreach staff carry their iPod speaker on their back or in a fanny pack). This immersive interaction is similar to our other Outreach programs targeted to children, except we can spread out and physically be active unlike in the classroom or daycare setting. Plus, it’s welcoming to families with children in strollers (indoor venues are not as conducive), and it adds a different aspect to their exercise (following directions, waiting patiently, etc) instead of just running ahead to see the next page. Our community has embraced the concept so much that it was very difficult to have to revert the program to passive viewing during the pandemic.

Story Strolls have enhanced our outreach to preschool/school families by contributing to school readiness (helping during the summer “bridge” and teaching children how to follow a story in sequence) and inspiring parents, teachers and other caregivers (entire daycare groups have attended our programs) to take young children outdoors to enjoy reading stories together. We often see completely different attendees than those at our other Outreach events and storytime locations. Our families tell us these programs get them outside of their four walls, so it’s nice to be able to demonstrate that we are integrated in the community and that we celebrate families!

Stay tuned for the return of our Story Strolls when we announce our summer 2022 dates and locations in the spring. Let’s get moving!

*The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson.