SANDPOINT — Washington Elementary second-graders spent the morning Friday running along a snowy trail, stopping at each kiosk along the way as they were anxious to find out who “The Animals’ Santa” was.
By the end of the StoryWalk the identity was revealed, though it will not be disclosed here. “The Animals’ Santa”, written by children’s author Jan Brett, is this month’s featured book at the Dover StoryWalk.
The StoryWalk in Dover is one of two permanent StoryWalk locations in the area through a partnership between Kaniksu Land Trust and the East Bonner County Library District, as well as the cities of Dover and Ponderay, in an effort to combine literacy with the outdoors.
“It is really a cool partnership, because Kaniksu is about getting people outside and the library is about supporting literacy, so this gets the kids outside to read year-round ... and this park is lovely in every season,” said Regan Plumb, conservation director with KLT. “It is just really fun to be partnering with an organization like the library to bring an innovative program like this, that doesn’t come out of our traditional tool box. It is a really fun way to interact and provide something meaningful for our community.”
Suzanne Davis, youth programming and services coordinator for the library, said the StoryWalk is an “easy” opportunity to get families outside, particularly this time of year. Not everyone can afford to go skiing, or has sleds to go sledding, she said. Most people, she said, can do a short walk in the snow.
“We know that going outside and getting a little bit of fresh air and a little bit of vitamin D really helps in the wintertime,” Davis said.
For young kids, Davis said, their experience of reading is usually sitting on their parent’s lap, or beside them, with “total” focus on them. As parents are constantly multi-tasking to get through life, she said, that one-on-one time, where the focus is completely on the child, is rare.
“So that story cuddle-up time, it takes you back to that,” Davis said. “The focus is completely on your family and your kids, and enjoying something outside together. So I just think it’s a wonderful way to spend some time together ... get some literacy in there, get some energy out of your kids — just a bunch of different things in a small way.”
StoryWalks encourage children — and adults — to explore, touch, smell, listen and enjoy. To create the StoryWalk, a children’s book is deconstructed and the laminated pages are posted in wooden display boxes along a designated walking path. The stories are changed monthly.
The Dover StoryWalk was the first installation after KLT and the library formed the partnership. The second permanent StoryWalk was installed at McNearney Park in Ponderay a year ago. There is also a permanent StoryWalk at Northside Elementary, which is administered separately by the school staff, Plumb said.
Anyone interested in finding out who “The Animals’ Santa” is can do so this month at the Dover StoryWalk, located on Lakeshore Avenue next to Dover City Hall. McNearney Park is located on McNearney Road, behind Panhandle Animal Shelter. The Ponderay StoryWalk currently features “Merry Moosey Christmas,” by Lynn Plourde.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.