ASHLAND — While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited traditional, in-person programming at the Ashland Public Library, it hasn't prevented local library staff from connecting with young readers and their families in another way.
Earlier this month, the Ashland Public Library and Ashland County Parks Department collaborated to update an outdoor reading experience at Freer Field and announced plans to expand the program to other county parks in the near future.
StoryWalk Ashland features large laminated pages mounted to wooden posts along the park's walking path, located off Park Street. It was first introduced locally four years ago and was updated occasionally since then.
Considering current in-person limitations for programming, the library has now committed to more regularly updating the display. The selected books are planned to be updated each season, excluding winter time when less people use the parks.
"The idea behind this is to encourage people to get outdoors and read a story along the way," said Ashland Public Library Community Engagement Coordinator Emily King.
The new book, “And Then Comes Summer,” by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim, contains vibrant illustrations and simple words that explain summer from a child’s perspective.
This is only the beginning of a larger collaboration. The Ashland Public Library and Ashland County Parks Department plan to add three more StoryWalks to other county parks, including Byers Woods, Crall Woods and the Ashland Fire Company Nature Cabin. The StoryWalk planned for Byers Woods is expected to be in place within the next few weeks, while the others will come later in the summer.
The StoryWalk at the Ashland Fire Cabin will be added along a new paved path, which is to be completed by the end of summer.
The StoryWalk Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont and developed further with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. The notion is for libraries to promote both physical activity and learning by deconstructing a children’s picture book and placing it page-by-page along a popular walking path.
"I hope families just have fun with it. It's a learning experience and a way to get outside," King said.
Library Maintenance personnel Jim Thomas has been diligently cutting, staining, and building roughly 50 new posts that will display the storybook pages.
Meanwhile, community engagement manager, Caitlin Bates is cutting out the pages of the selected books, laying them out onto poster board and laminating them.
"The hard work is worth the payoff as the library continues to see members of the Ashland community visit StoryWalk Ashland and share their experiences," King said. "It is with these StoryWalks and community collaborations that the Ashland Public Library hopes to continue to promote literacy and learning."
For more information about StoryWalk Ashland or other library programming, please contact the library at 419-289-8188 or visit www.ashland.lib.oh.us.