StoryWalk® Trail promotes literacy and healthy lifestyles

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

A sunny morning on Aug. 29, marked the official grand opening of the newly established StoryWalk® Trail at Turner’s Park in Luverne. The community gathered at 9:30 a.m. to celebrate this innovative project aimed at encouraging families to be active while enjoying literature and promoting healthier lifestyle choices.

During the inauguration ceremony, attendees were welcomed by Crenshaw Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Kristen Sanders, the driving force behind the initiative.

“We believe the StoryWalk® Trail will serve as a fun and engaging way to promote literacy and healthy lifestyles in our community,” said Sanders. “The combination of physical activity and storytelling brings families together, while also reinforcing the importance of making wholesome lifestyle choices.”

The StoryWalk® Project, a collaborative effort between the Luverne Public Library and Crenshaw County Extension, seeks to inspire residents to engage in physical activity, enhance literacy skills, and foster a love for both reading and physical activity among community members, particularly young children. By integrating children’s stories into the walking trail, the StoryWalk® initiative creates an interactive experience where families can enjoy the outdoors and engage with literature simultaneously. As visitors follow the trail, they encounter pages of a storybook, creating an immersive reading experience that encourages movement, exploration and use of the imagination.

The idea for the StoryWalk Trail at Turner’s Park originated from the success of a library chalk walk event held during the Move Alabama Challenge. Families in the community responded enthusiastically to the event, prompting Kristen Sanders, Crenshaw Extension SNAP-Ed Educator, and the Luverne Public Library to explore the idea of a permanent StoryWalk® along the trail at the park.

To bring this vision to life, the two organizations sought guidance from StoryWalk® founder, Ann Ferguson, and received support from the City of Luverne and Luverne Parks and Recreation. Stories will be changed each month, sometimes twice a month, providing visitors with new characters and adventures to enjoy on their walking journey.

Director of the Luverne Public Library Kathryn Tomlin expressed her deep appreciation for the collaborative spirit that led to the creation of the StoryWalk® Trail at Turner’s Park. Tomlin emphasized the importance of active parenting and its role in shaping active children. She noted that the idea of the StoryWalk® Trail was rooted in the desire to promote early literacy, encourage healthy lifestyles, foster physical activity, and provide families with an opportunity to spend quality time together in the embrace of nature.

“The idea of the storywalk is to promote early literacy, healthy lifestyles, physical activity, and family time together in nature,”Tomlin said. “Its’ completion is due to our partners that understood from very early on how this idea could be used to bring a fun, educational family activity to our community. The partnership between the Extension Office, the Luverne Public Library, the Friends of the Library, the City of Luverne, mayor and council members and the staff of the Luverne Park and Recreation Department along with the city workers who did the manual labor to install the signs all worked together to make StoryWalk® a reality. We encourage everyone, young and old alike, to take a story walk at the beautiful E.L. Turner Park in Luverne.”

The metal signs displaying book pages were generously purchased by the Luverne Public Library and Friends of the Library. The Live Well Alabama program in conjunction with Alabama Extension, purchased laminate, books, healthy message signage, as well as other materials needed for mounting the books.

The City of Luverne also played a crucial role in the project’s launch. The streets and sanitation crew installed the metal signs along the park trail, cementing them securely for visitors to enjoy. The City Council members and Parks and Recreation board provided unwavering support and authorization for the installation of the StoryWalk® Trail.

For those eager to delve into the stories beyond the park, all featured books will be available for checkout at the Luverne Public Library. So, lace up your sneakers, embark on a literary journey, and take steps toward a healthier, more vibrant community.