Take a “story walk” at Waterloo Region Public Library

  • Feature   Wed, Aug 4th, 2021   Delaney Regehr

During a time when COVID restrictions make it difficult to gather indoors, the Region of Waterloo Public Library has been using story walks as a creative way to engage people in outdoor activities.
A story walk is created using the pages of a book, typically a picture book, and displaying them on signs placed several feet apart in the ground. The reader is then able to wander from board to board as if they were reading a book page by page. Through the COVID shutdown, the boards have been placed six feet apart to allow people to navigate the story walk while safely maintaining social distancing.
Sheryl Tilley, Manager of Library Services, outlined the advantages of this activity, and said, “The beauty of this is that it’s an outdoor experience. It’s a way to bring the library to the outdoors, so it allows us to meet people where they are. It’s also good to get outdoors since we’re spending so much time inside working from home, or online schooling. It’s a new experience for people to get outside and really enjoy the outdoors in line with a good story.”
The story walks are a convenient option because they can take place almost anywhere. Sheryl mentioned that the library has placed story walks in parks, local arenas, splash pads, playgrounds, and even in front of the library itself in the past. The story walks can be used to help engage people in literature and draw them to the library. By seeing a story walk outside of a library building, people may be encouraged to visit the library or participate in an outdoor event.
Recently, the library has been lending story walks to the Township of Wilmot to use as an activity in their day camps.
Sheryl highlights how the COVID shutdown has really emphasized the value of outdoor activities. She said, “We started out using it with the Let’s Read initiative throughout the years, and I must say we never realized how incredibly useful they could be until we came into COVID. Because of COVID, you’re having to limit access to the indoors, so we’ve had our libraries open and closed throughout COVID to follow the provincial legislation guidelines. So we realized we had something we could actually put outdoors or lend to other groups such as the Township.”
To keep up with the growing popularity of this activity, the Region of Waterloo Public Library has decided to expand their story walk collection. Shortly they will be adding two new publications, Peace Train by Cat Stevens, and The Girl and The Wolf by Indigenous author, Katherena Vermette. Sheryl said, “As we’re seeing how useful and enjoyable these story walks are for people, we’re looking to diversify and add to our story walk collection.”
The library sees a lot of opportunities to grow their collection in the future. In addition to the new picture books, they are hoping to include different literature styles so they can engage a wider audience. This could look like adding poetry story walks for adults, or wordless picture books which provide a more accessible option.
The library is pleased by the positive uptake from the community and township partners, and is looking forward to continuing these story walks in the future.