By Corey Farrenkopf, Librarian at Eastham Library
Since the beginning of Covid, we have seen a large number of story walks popping up around libraries. They are a great way to provide a fun and interactive story-time experience outdoors, exposing kids to reading and nature simultaneously, while allowing easy and safe social distancing. With early, and understandable, restrictions on indoor programming, story walks became a great go to for monthly library content that really gets at a library’s mission statement. I’ve seen everything from classic picture books to poetry to illustrate non-fiction in a variety of displays in a variety of places. Often, these story walks loop around a library building or are posted in library windows, but other times they are hung around community gardens, parks, and nature trails. The ladder are a great way to draw attention to conservation land in your town or to get people interested in the community gardens.
The purpose of this post is to talk about creating ecological and sustainably-minded story walks that can both highlight your library offerings and get patrons thinking about their active role in local ecosystems/environments. Here at Eastham Public Library, we just opened our seed library for the first time. We received a number of seed donations from High Mowing Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Sow Right Seeds, several of our librarians, and many members of the community. We decided what better way to let families know about our new offerings then by creating a seed-focused story walk.
Our children’s librarian, Fran, and I selected Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler. It’s a whimsical tale about Miss Maple who saves and protects lost seeds that haven’t found their home yet. She nurtures these seeds until they eventually find the right space for them to grow. It’s a perfect introduction for children into the world of seeds and the astounding potential each holds. We coupled this picture book with several informative signs that teach families about the easiest types of seeds to plant on Cape Cod (where we are located), what specific seed varieties look like, how to plant seeds, where to get seeds, and why you should plant them. This last sign focuses on providing native plants for pollinators to visit and why that can be beneficial to several different aspects of life. This is a fun and informative way to get children started on the path of considering what impact they can have on their immediate environment.
Since our seed-centric story walk went up, we have had dozens of families stop by and peruse our seed library, selecting a few packets of seeds to bring home and hopefully use what they learned from the final stops on our walk in real life.
With Earth Day right around the corner in April, now might be a good time to consider what books you have in your collection that fit well on a story walk focused on the environment. Can you bring attention to the lifecycle of native trees and why they are important to a healthy ecosystem? Do you have any fun texts on recycling and how easy it is to do? Maybe a book on gardening for beginners? Or reusing commonly thrown away items? Or creating habitats in your yard for local flora and fauna to flourish in? It’s always enjoyable to pair a classic book like the Lorax with additional informational texts about trees in your area and local conservation efforts. There are so many different angles you can pursue based on your community needs and interests. Finding texts that get young readers to understand they have agency in the health of the world around them is always an empowering move!
Some libraries, like Eastham, are lucky enough to have permanent structures/display boards on which to hang their story walks. Others, like Sturgis Library in Barnstable (where I used to work), have devised movable sign posts that can be driven into the ground on which laminated book pages are taped. There are many creative options that any library can utilize, regardless of their financial and space restrictions. Remember, you could always hang a few pages in a window or rotate through pages in a display case, unveiling a few new ones each day/week. There are so many options!
Good luck with your upcoming story walks and thanks for reading!