Take a stroll, read a book: Franklin nonprofit to install StoryWalks around town

fr storywalkFranklin will soon be joining other communities around the world who are incorporating a love for reading with a love of the outdoors.

Read2Me, a community initiative in Macon County whose mission is to get books into the hands of children, is working to install StoryWalks at the Little Tennessee Greenway in downtown and the new Parker Meadows Recreational Complex. 

When Brittney Raby of Franklin, a member of the Read2Me board, visited Carolina Beach with her family last summer, she walked with her 2-year-old son Turner around the town’s greenway. 

“During our first loop around the greenway we came across a StoryWalk. It was the first time I had ever seen or heard of such an idea and I just loved it,” Raby said. 

“After the first day, as soon as we got to the greenway the second day, my son sprinted to the boards and wanted to read the story over and over again and by the time we left, he had memorized all of the active components to the walk.”

She shared the idea with the Read2Me board when she returned to Franklin and they embraced the idea. StoryWalks can be done in a number of ways, but Raby said Read2Me decided to model Macon’s storyboards after the ones at Carolina Beach. The boards will be printed on sturdy quarter-inch thick composite metal sign panel with full color graphics. The graphics will have a matte finish UV laminate and the boards will have a five- to six-year lifespan. Goshen Timber Frames has donated its time and talents to the project and have committed to build the boards for Read2Me at no cost. 

“Ideally, the top surface of the board will be removable. So while the wood in the ground is permanent, the actual part of the StoryWalk that has the book can be taken off and interchanged with other ones periodically,” Raby said. “That way, the same book wont be at the same spot for the entire five years.”

Read2Me has worked with Macon County officials to install the first StoryWalks on county recreation property and the Rotary Club of Franklin is allowing the first one to be installed on its sponsored portion of the greenway.

Daybreak Rotary members also want to help dig the holes and install the first walk. The second StoryWalk will be installed at the new Parker Meadows Recreation Park. 

“The park has a mile-long walking trail and is the perfect spot for a walk,” Raby said. 

Read2Me is in the process of securing publishing rights to print the books. They contracted with Curious City, the same company Carolina Beach used for its Story Walks. 

“They handle a lot of the process and bring a uniformed look to the StoryWalks,” Raby said. “Because StoryWalks are a fairly new concept, publishers are working to build community profiles on literacy rates, library visitation rates and community size.”

Since Curious City has already duplicated six books for StoryWalks across the country, Read2Me chose book titles from that selection. Franklin Rotary selected the book “Pond Babies” to be installed along the greenway. Read2Me members voted on the second title and selected “Bugliest Bug.” Raby said both books were selected based on their beautiful colors and visual aspects — the titles are also relevant to the locations they will be featured.

“Read2Me is comprised of teachers, literacy specials, retired educators and parents, and all of their expertise areas had opinions on which books would be best and why,” she said. “We plan to do one a year after this year, if funding is available so hopefully more titles and books will also soon be part of our StoryWalk library.” 

The contract with Curious City is for $1,200, which includes their work to get the publishing rights and the design of the storyboards. Read2Me will have the boards printed locally for about $600 each. Enough money has been secured for the first StoryWalk, but the organization still needs about $500 more to pay for the second one. Businesses and organizations that donate to the project will have their logo featured on the very first board of the story.

By the time Read2Me secures the publisher’s permission to reprint the books, it will be winter so installation of the boards will be postponed until spring. 

“One of the most fun parts of the StoryWalks is having a big celebration to unveil the project to the community, and we would love to do that on a spring day and have the whole community involved,” Raby said. 

As for future locations, Read2Me is talking with a local Girl Scout who wants to create a StoryWalk as one of her Girl Scout projects. She wants to write the story herself and has already asked one of her teachers to illustrate it. Raby said she hopes that walk can be installed at the school system’s central office or the local library so it can be “checked out” temporarily at different locations. 

“We also plan to work with Main Street merchants to have a Main Street Walk,” she said. “That project won’t cost nearly as much because of instead of permanent boards for the walks, the StoryWalk would be laminated in storefront windows for shoppers to read as they pass by.” 

Raby said the project would fit perfectly with Read2Me’s goal of raising awareness of the importance of early literacy and Franklin’s goal of offering family-friendly outdoor activities. 

“When Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, developed the idea of the StoryWalk, she did so with those things in mind,” she said. “Replicating that idea and the project in Macon County will not only give our residents something fun to do with their families, but hopefully it will give the visitors to our area something to look forward to.”

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