Storywalks and Other Hybrid Programs: CLELCON21 Reflections

by Katherine Bunker / High Plains Library District

In another pandemic-dominated year, our passion for helping children “experience the joy of reading and skills in life that literacy provides” did not wane. Storywalks evolved as an existing passive program and morphed into a safe social distancing program for libraries to offer to their communities. In a 2021 CLEL Conference session entitled StoryWalks and Other Hybrid Programs, Early Literacy Librarian at Pagosa Springs Library Josie Snow led a sharing and brainstorming session about successful storywalks offered by libraries throughout Colorado. Initially Josie Snow and session participants detailed some basic tips for creating a storywalk:

Pikes Peak Library District’s Storywalk at Shreiver Airforce Base
  • take apart and laminate two copies of the book for backs and fronts of signs (if freestanding)
  • partner with parks & recreation departments to secure space in a park or near the library
  • use UV acetate envelopes to prevent fading
  • wordless books engage all audiences
  • zip-tie signs to chain link fences or put them down low in business windows accessible to passers-by on sidewalks
  • cover donated realtor signs with the book pages as a low-cost alternative
  • add literacy tips onto some of the signs too
  • add giveaways (crafts, small prizes) in zip-tied boxes at the end of storywalks
  • add a QR code on end of the storywalk to track participants and enter them in a drawing for a prize (like a free copy of the featured book)
  • create stickers or buttons with the storywalk book cover and “I walked it” or “I walked the story” or “I read a story on the go” for participants to wear
  • create a poetry storywalk for adults with a different poem on each sign
  • seek grants for storywalks like Health Literacy Grants, ALA associated grants, ready-to-read grants

Then, variations of storywalks were shared which highlighted the potential creativity of this passive program and the opportunity to partner in various ways with the community at large.

Partner with local businesses for a Halloween or Holiday Storywalk:

Libraries partner with stores in a down-town area or outdoor mall area where two-page spreads of the book can be placed in sidewalk-facing windows. Businesses could be a designated stop in which families and children read the pages outside then go into the business for a take-and-make craft or sweet treat. It’s a win-win!

Highlight Kids’ Artwork in a Storywalk: Have kids submit artwork based on a theme or a prompt then showcase it in a storywalk! Make high quality color copies of the original artwork then follow the traditional storywalk process to display it. Invite families to celebrate their artist’s creativity by having an open-air, outdoors celebration and reception.

Instead of a Storywalk, do a Silly Stroll: Place various movements (wiggle like a worm, strut like a stork, etc…) on the storywalk signs. Turn it into a bilingual silly stroll by having each sign in two languages, English on one side and Spanish on the other.

Glow in the Dark Storywalk: This is a great variation to do over winter break or when daylight savings time ends. Provide families with glow sticks to wear as bracelets and encourage them to bring flashlights to read the story. If possible, line the storywalk pathway or outline the storywalk signs with glow-in-the-dark paint.

Create a Coding Storywalk: Partner with a local science organization in the community and create a storywalk that focuses on coding. Since coding involves following various commands, create a storywalk like Wilkinson Public Library in Telluride that encourages kids to follow various dance moves to assemble into an entire dance at the end of the storywalk.

Indoor Storywalk: Create a storywalk inside the library or on the walls of an indoor mall. You’ll just need to take apart one book for this variation in which the two-page spreads are placed on signs and affixed to walls inside the library or a mall. This is a great alternative to bring the storywalk inside during winter weather.

The possibilities are endless! Any of these storywalk approaches engage children and families, promote social distancing and movement, and remind us all that books can be read anywhere!

Katherine Bunker is a Library Associate and Sub Librarian at Centennial Park Library in Greeley, a branch within High Plains Library District. She is currently pursuing my MLIS at San Jose State University with a focus on Youth Services.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position or opinion of the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy organization or the individual committee members.