The Story Walk Project at Community Gardens in Westford. PHOTO BY ANTHONY CAMALLERI

Project at Community Gardens Brings the Story Outdoors

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This summer, the J.V Fletcher Library has posted pages of Candace Fleming’s children’s book, “Mucha! Muncha! Muncha!” around the perimeter of the Westford Community Garden, contributing to the fast-growing “StoryWalk Project.”

The StoryWalk Project, founded by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg Hubbard Library, allows children to go for a walk outside while, at the same time, engaging in a storybook. With plastic laminated segments of a children’s book hanging at each checkpoint, families can take a stroll around the garden, while periodically stopping to read.

J.V. Fletcher Librarians first decided to adopt this program after attending the North of Boston Youth Services conference this spring. It was at the youth services conference that a presentation on the StoryWalk Project inspired librarians Ellen Apicco and Jackie Bibble to mount a story in Westford. After brainstorming with library director Ellen Rainville, they decided to create a StoryWalk in the Westford Community Gardens.

“We really like the idea of having programs that encourage families to enjoy reading, enjoy nature, enjoy the library. We just loved the idea of having this stationary, stay-in-one-place story, where kids could be enjoying a story with their family while staying outdoors,” Apicco said,

“We pored through some different books that we thought would work, and the director of the library, Ellen Rainville, came up with the idea to have it at the Community Garden for lots of reasons: there was ample parking, it’s a safe place, it’s a fairly easy hike for all ages,” she said.

As local nanny Anna Gould walked with her charges through the Westford Community Gardens, the children stayed a few feet ahead of her, reading one book page, then running ahead to the next. Gould said she saw the newly added pages as a fusion of two valuable activities for kids: being outdoors, and reading.

“I think that kids should be brought up getting to know nature, but also learning through reading. I think it’s really cool to see when the two can mix. They’re two things that I hope won’t get lost in our world of technology, and two things that I grew up with as well,” Gould said.

For Westford residents or friends of the J.V Fletcher Library who wish to see the StoryWalk for themselves, a yellow journal is mounted at the end of the stroll, in which visitors can write their names, logging their visits.

“We don’t have any real way of knowing whether people are enjoying it or not if they don’t sign it, or verbally tell us,” Apicco said. “The goal is to have people enjoy the outdoors, enjoy a good story, and do something wonderful as a family.”