Librarian’s StoryWalk takes reading to the park

Summer initiative puts love of books in great outdoors through novel exercise paths

GRAFTON PUBLIC LIBRARY Young Adult and Youth Services librarian Nicolette Birkholz stood beside the first station of the StoryWalk in Veterans Park, an initiative that encourages children to get outside and read. Birkholz said StoryWalk has become a popular feature in the park since youngsters have been stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

The coronavirus pandemic has kept many children indoors this summer, but a Grafton Public Library initiative is helping youngsters get outside to stretch their legs and read in Veterans Park.

“Since the weather has been getting better this summer, we’ve been hearing a lot of positive feedback from families who have been able to enjoy seeing there kids reading in the park,” said Nicolette Birkholz, the library’s young adult and youth services librarian.

Last year, Birkholz developed the StoryWalk project, which included dismantling a children’s book and placing pages along a walking path or trail to promote reading and exercise. The current book being featured at Veterans Park is “Library Lion” by Michelle Knudsen.    

“It’s a book for all ages. We picked that one because it’s a longer book and has more text than will normally be there because we thought adults would pass by and start reading it,” Birkholz said, noting the books chosen will be typically geared toward preschool children.

The park has 12 reading posts displaying pages of the book on both sides, for a total of 24 reading stations. Birkholz said the project began last September and was completed in December before the ground froze.

Birkholz said she wanted to grow the presence of the library outside of its physical location and learned about the StoryWalk from a library in Montpelier, Vt. When public libraries throughout Wisconsin were shut down during Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order, her idea became an asset to the community.

“I was really excited that there was still a piece of the library out there for people to enjoy even when they couldn’t physically come to it,” she said.

“Even some of our adult patrons said they enjoyed going to the park and felt they were still part of the library.”

Birkholz said access to the park was limited at the start of summer because 13th Avenue was being reconstructed, but since the street work ended, she has seen a number of families enjoying the StoryWalk.

The total cost of the project was about $7,500, with the library paying half. The balance was shared evenly by the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce and the village.

Next month, Birkholz said she plans to replace the current story with a musical-themed book to coincide with a Paramount Blues Walking Tour. She also plans on changing the reading material every three to four months to coincide with holidays and other village events. 

Depending on community feedback, Birkholz said, she may have more StoryWalks developed in other village parks.

“It feels like it’s something the community is really enjoying. I think Lime Kiln Park has a lot of potential to have something like that,” she said.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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