story walk

A storywalk allows individuals to read pages of a book while outside enjoying the weather and exercising. 

There’s a new opportunity in downtown Harrisonburg for individuals to relax and enjoy a good story. A StoryWalk is a program that dismantles a children’s book and mounts the story on posters across restaurants and stores. It gives participants the chance to enjoy their environment.

“Indigo Bloom and the Garden City” by Kwame Alexander was the story chosen by Massanutten Regional Libraries. It’s a story about a young girl whose community is overwhelmed with trash. She decides to build a rooftop garden and shows her community how to go green, a message that MRL wanted to showcase.

“We feel that it’s a wonderful representation of Harrisonburg and the various folks that live and work in Harrisonburg,” Michael Evans, director of advancement for MRL, said. “It’s a reflection of the faces we see around Harrisonburg and has a great message.”

16 pages of the story are spread out across 14 different restaurants and stores. In total, it’s a 1.3 mile loop. The plan is for the story to be swapped out with another every two months.

“I thought it was really innovative and a great way to involve kids in reading and also explore downtown,” Amanda Cannon, owner and manager of FoodBarFood, said. “It’s a really neat idea for families to be able to walk through downtown and read this story. I think it’s another example of how special our downtown is.”

Cannon signed up as soon as possible for FoodBarFood to be a participating building in the StoryWalk. The poster hangs inside the restaurant to protect it from damage, but it’s visible from outside.

This project was funded through the Downtown Destination grant from Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. It’s designed to allow people in the community to bring creative ideas to life and create an opportunity for free activities that people can enjoy.

HDR funded nine projects for a total of $25,000. The StoryWalk received a $1,600 grant.

“We absolutely loved the idea of a free family event,” Lauren Huber, director of resources at HDR, said. “We always want downtown to be for everybody – this gives people a chance to just come downtown and enjoy it without paying for something.”

StoryWalk is a concept that was developed in Vermont and has been implemented across the world. It’s appeared in all 50 states and 12 countries.

It’s typically done in parks or natural environments. For Harrisonburg, it was intentional to place it downtown so that individuals can enjoy the downtown area without feeling the need to purchase anything.

“We hope that it gives a chance to relax and slow down,” Evans said. “We hope that it becomes something that gives that gift of time and just taking things easy for a little bit.”

Contact Matthew Sasser at sasserma@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.