Delran community came together to make StoryWalk Project a reality
The StoryWalk Project was started by Anne Ferguson in Montpelier, Vermont back in 2007, a movement that has spread across all 50 states and more than a dozen countries worldwide.
It’s a simple concept, bringing children’s books to life by putting the pages of a story on a walking trail at a park or public area where parents and children can walk through and stop to read the different pages laid out.
That concept has come to Jake’s Place, an all-inclusive playground in Community Park, as two faculty from Millbridge Elementary School partnered with Delran Township government and a number of other places within the community to make this vision a reality.
“I was on an early literacy committee in Maine and I saw them put it in a park,” Michelle Reasso said. “They were looking for places where families go with their little kids so they put books and reading in front of them.”
Reasso is a media specialist at Millbridge, but had the idea swirling in her head for years since coming to the school district.
She went to library assistant Sue Howard, who immediately supported the idea. Howard drafted a grant to the Delran Education Association, who gave them $500 to start with.
Reasso and Howard then took the idea to the township. Delran Mayor Gary Catrambone was immediately on board.
“I said, ‘Sure’ … It’s a fun idea and it gets kids reading, it gets them outside and playing,” he said. “We put it in a popular area where people can read and go play.”
While the township voiced its support and gave the project a green light, the project needed more funds to complete.
Reasso kept networking around the community to see who could help fund and complete the estimated $5,000 project.
Quickly, the word got around and support poured in, from the Fab Lab over at Delran High School to Rob Foster of Rest Wood Crafts & Custom Furniture and Rudy Grilli over at Grilli Concrete.
The project finally got its physical start in October and was completed before its grand unveiling in late April.
“That’s what Anne was all about when she first came up with StoryWalk,” Reasso said. “She said ‘this was my lone idea, and I can’t do it by myself. It’s about partner, partner, partner. Find other people who think it’s a good idea and they will help you.’ People kept reaching out to me and now it’s turned into a project that many people have had a hand in.”
Delran’s StoryWalk will feature a rotating cast of books over the course of the year. They began with If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson, but later in the year, Reasso expects to change titles.
It creates a buzz around kids and parents who are eager to read the next book, Reasso said, adding there’s a wide book catalog giving them plenty of options to choose from.
“At the opening, we also gave away seeds so kids could plant their own little gardens at home,” Reasso said. “… Every couple months, we’re going to change it out. We’re going to try to do it seasonally.”
StoryWalk has already been a smash hit at Jake’s Place, and Reasso is excited for what is to come with the project given what a great start it’s had.
“I’ve been contacted by other communities that heard about it and want to put one in their communities,” Reasso said. “It’s a great idea and I don’t want it to stop in Delran.”