It’s not every day you stroll along your favorite walking trail and spy a sign displaying the pages of a book. But if you did, you’d stop and read it, right? That’s the idea behind The StoryWalk® Project, an innovative program designed by a chronic disease prevention specialist to encourage physical activity by tempting youngsters with books. Since the project’s inception in 2007, Storywalks have cropped up in all fifty US states and thirteen countries, including England, Canada, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and South Korea. Earlier this summer, Bas Bleu’s Merchandising Manager, Ann Gregory, and her favorite wee bluestockings experienced this cool reading experience firsthand, taking a Storywalk® in north Georgia.

A few weeks ago, I took my kids, ages six and nine, for a hike at Mount Arabia, outside of Atlanta. Laden with drinks and snacks, and two of us already complaining about tired legs, we embarked upon the first trail we came across. Just a few steps in, we spotted a little sign with a book cover on it, and I realized we’d stumbled upon a Storywalk®!

Since I follow Mike Rawls, aka @thebookwrangler, on Instagram, I knew about the concept. (By the way, be sure to check out the stellar collection of kids’ books that Mike curated just for Bas Bleu!) The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. The idea is to place the pages of a children’s book, in order, along a well-traveled path or route in a community—in a park, in storefronts by a sidewalk, along a nature trail—anywhere they can be easily seen by pedestrians. (In order to avoid copyright issues, the books must be purchased, and you can’t photograph or reproduce the pages; they must be originals. You’ll need to purchase two copies so you can show the fronts and backs of pages.)

The book displayed on our path was Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal. My (somewhat reluctant-reader) third-grader and (beginning-reader) kindergartener both loved reading aloud the text and examining the lovely illustrations. They raced to the next little sign along the path, striving to be the first to sound out the words on the page. The book talks about all the flora and fauna to be found around a pond habitat, so it was a great starting point to discussing the critters and plants we saw in the wooded streams along our stroll. Our impromptu hike became a learning experience, as well as a wonderful way to practice the reading skills we’d worked so hard on during this unconventional school year. I was near tears at their excitement, and so grateful for the volunteers who put together this lovely installation.

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