Take a Walk Into a Storybook Spring
In the words of Gustav Mahler, “Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” In that spirit, I plan on wandering about right here in the town of Zionsville—along the trail in Elm Street Green—to experience the new StoryWalk project for myself.
Zionsville’s Newest Attraction
The StoryWalk Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition (VBPC) and the Kellogg Hubbard Library.
Zionsville’s StoryWalk project is a collaboration between the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library (HMMPL), the HMMPL Foundation and Zionsville Parks and Recreation. The permanent installation is located along the half-mile paved loop in Elm Street Green and officially opened to the public on March 20, 2021. It is a free, multistation exhibit in the prairie meadows section of the park.
The Zionsville Parks and Rec Department recently installed permanent structures allowing the HMMPL to share a book, page by page, throughout this self-guided story tour. It allows visitors of all ages an opportunity to enjoy reading and the great outdoors at the same time.
“The new feature at Elm Street Green supports our mission to provide unique and accessible services that inspire people to learn, play and engage,” said Mindy Murdock, director of recreation services. “The Zionsville Parks Department has enjoyed years of partnership with the library. This collaboration allows us to continue to develop exciting recreational opportunities and reach new community members.”
HMMPL and the Parks Department have offered at least 10 joint programs annually for several years. The success of these programs helped set the stage for HMMPL’s most recent Parks Department collaboration. The StoryWalk will incorporate monthly events with both HMMPL’s and Zionsville Nature Center’s participation.
Youth librarian Laura Gangstad expressed that she received a lot of support from Murdock when the two discussed the prospect of having a permanent StoryWalk feature at Elm Street Green.
“Mindy was so supportive,” Gangstad said. “She said if I got the grant together, then we would propose [the project] to the Parks Department and to the Library Foundation. I got the bid for the $9,000 to get the  posts and enough money to purchase books for two, maybe three years. We will have a different book—from well-respected authors—at the beginning of each month and will have a story time [event] or something associated with the new book and the StoryWalk.”
Gangstad said that the StoryWalk and related programs tie into the national program Every Child Ready to Read that encourages parents to interact with their children using the five practices of early literacy: singing, talking, reading, writing and playing.
“Every Child Ready to Read will be highlighted somewhere along the trail,” Gangstad shared. “The more that kids read, write, talk, sing and play together, the more they’ll be ready for school.”
The Inaugural Feature Story
Search for signs of spring along the StoryWalk path and read “Bloom Boom!” by April Pulley Sayre throughout the end of March and all of April.
“The photography in this first [featured] book is beautiful,” Gangstad stated. “April [Pulley Sayre] focuses on things in nature to look at. It will appeal to adults as well as children.”
The author of “Bloom Boom!” shared with me what she hopes people will take away from her book as well as the experience of the StoryWalk as a whole.
‘I am thrilled about HMMPL’s StoryWalk installation,” Pulley Sayre said. “My books reflect the joy of nature and scientific inquiry. I hope they send readers back out into nature with refreshed eyes. ‘Bloom Boom!’ celebrates the blooming of flowers in gardens and in the wild. Its refrain, BLOOM, BOOM!, is made to be said together, out loud, with whatever level of quiet or grand gusto you like. So, I can’t think of a better place to do that than outdoors on HMMPL’s StoryWalk!”
Pulley Sayre continued, “Post-pandemic, really anytime, books and outdoor time help rekindle our joy. One study showed that even five minutes in a green growing outdoor space—especially one with views of water—can help lift people’s spirits and improve mental health. That’s important for young children, our elders and all of us in the middle as well. I hope that after reading ‘Bloom Boom!’ our youngest strollers will have a few more science words tucked in their minds for asking questions and learning more.”
Join the StoryWalkers Club
The library needs your feedback on your StoryWalk experiences! Simply go to zionsvillelibrary.beanstack.org/reader365 and register to be a part of the StoryWalkers Club.
“If people join the [StoryWalkers] Club through Beanstack—there’s a link on our website—they can give feedback directly to me that I can pass on to Mindy and the library foundation,” Gangstad said. “I will list all of the books on there, and people can check it off as having went and seen it and give us a little feedback.”
So, grab your strollers or wagons and head on over to Elm Street Green to enjoy this month’s book selection and a taste of a much-needed spring season outdoors.
For more information about HMMPL programs and/or the HMMPL Foundation, visit zionsvillelibrary.org.
StoryWalk titles planned through September 2021: