NEW MILFORD StoryWalk encourages reading while walking
NEW MILFORD — Renée Caldareri and her son Antonio rounded the bend at Harrybrooke Park on an evening stroll and paused to examine an illustration of a dog writing his name — “Bailey” — on a blackboard.
The laminated picture was the first of nearly 30 posts along a path at the park making up the town’s first StoryWalk, which allows people to read a book as they go for a walk. It is put on by the library and Harrybrooke.
“I liked it,” said Antonio, 11, of New Milford. “It’s an inside thing that you can do outside.”
The Caldareris, of New Milford, followed the posts, reading “Bailey,” by Harry Bliss, which follows a dog through a day at school. The story includes humorous plays on dog behaviors in a school setting, including eating his own homework, having a student fill his dog bowl from the water fountain, howling with the choir, and profiling President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dog for a report.
“It was adorable,” Renée Caldareri said.
Library officials installed the StoryWalk this week and will take it down Tuesday morning, the day before school starts.
Valerie Fisher, the public services librarian, said she decided to bring the activity to New Milford after the creator, Anne Ferguson, presented one at the Connecticut Library conference this spring.
“I thought, ‘We could do this, this is great,’” Fisher said. “I enjoyed it and I assumed a lot of other people would.”
Ferguson created the first StoryWalk in Montpelier, Vt., in 2007 by partnering with her local library. The goal was to get parents and children active and prevent chronic diseases. StoryWalks are now in all 50 states and 14 countries. A few have been held in Connecticut, including Washington and Bridgewater.
Fisher reached out to Bill Buckbee, Harrybrooke’s executive director, to host the walk. The library laminated the pages and only needed to purchase wooden stakes and Velcro to attach the posts.
Buckbee agreed right away and said it was a great chance to work with the library. He said the park likes to promote literacy and will even give out books at the Easter egg hunt instead of candy. He plans to surprise some of the children on the walk with extra books.
“It combines two great things — kids being outside and reading,” Buckbee said.
Fisher said books with vibrant pictures and a few words on each page attract the most people for the walks.
Fisher hopes to make it an annual activity and said she’s heard great things from visitors so far. The library placed a neon notepad in a plastic bag at the end of the walk to serve as a guest book. As of Wednesday, a dozen groups had left notes praising the idea and story.
Renée Caldareri said that while the book is for a younger age group, she and her son still enjoyed it and laughed at several of the pages. She said their family often looks for fun, free activities to do outside, such as hikes, and this is a great option.
“It will also bring younger families out,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t know what to do with young kids that’s free. Anything to get people outside is a great idea.”