Ridgefield students discover new joys of reading with StoryWalks

Union Ridge Elementary School librarian Jubilee Roth first heard of the idea from a group of librarians that shares innovative ideas and lessons

When you hear, “let’s read a story!” you might picture snuggling up in a big chair or lying on the carpet with a good book. But at Ridgefield’s South Ridge and Union Ridge elementary schools, students are getting active while reading thanks to StoryWalk. With StoryWalk, a path is lined with laminated pages from a book, so the story unfolds as you walk and read. It’s a fun outdoor activity for library classes at Ridgefield’s elementary schools.

The class read the story with South Ridge Elementary School librarian Emily Crawford by following the pages posted along the path. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
The class read the story with South Ridge Elementary School librarian Emily Crawford by following the pages posted along the path. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

Union Ridge Elementary School librarian Jubilee Roth first heard of the idea from a group of librarians that shares innovative ideas and lessons. As soon as she heard about StoryWalk, she knew it was a good fit for Ridgefield schools. 

“One of the librarians posted how fun and memorable StoryWalk was for their students,” Roth said. “Since we couldn’t do my annual Book Exchange this year, I really wanted to make the end of the year special.”  

Before starting their StoryWalk, students had some creative answers for why someone would wear a bag on their head like the story’s main character. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
Before starting their StoryWalk, students had some creative answers for why someone would wear a bag on their head like the story’s main character. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

Roth bought copies of the book “Chester” by Melanie Watt. Then she disassembled and laminated the pages and set each page on a stake in the ground. Her students were excited about the “new” way to read. The walk took almost twenty minutes to read the book from start to finish. 

“The kids were loving it — even in the rain!” Roth laughed. “And ‘Chester’ has a surprisingly funny ending, which was exciting on a StoryWalk.” 

South Ridge Elementary School librarian Emily Crawford loved the idea too. She used the book “Baghead” by Jarrett Kroscoczka to create their StoryWalk. But instead of going right to the walk, Crawford showed her students a paper bag with eyes, nose, and mouth holes, and asked, “Why would someone wear a bag on their head?” They had many creative answers. Then she told the students to watch for the surprise ending on their StoryWalk, where they learned why the main character wears a bag on his head. 

The outdoor StoryWalk at South Ridge Elementary School featured the book "Baghead." Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
The outdoor StoryWalk at South Ridge Elementary School featured the book “Baghead.” Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

After the walk, students completed a writing exercise where they either wrote an alternate ending of “Baghead” or continued the story by telling what happened next. “The students were very eager to share their versions of the story, which were all very funny and creative,” Crawford said. “Some of them even asked if we are going to do StoryWalks again next year so they could write the stories themselves.” 

Inspiring young readers and writers is a welcome result of the StoryWalk activity.  “I told students this was just another way of reading,” Crawford said. “And reading can take on many different forms.” 

Doing the StoryWalk together as a group outside gives students a chance to experience reading in a different way. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
Doing the StoryWalk together as a group outside gives students a chance to experience reading in a different way. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

StoryWalks were originally developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library and have been installed in locations around the world. The StoryWalks here in Ridgefield were a great success, and Roth is already thinking ahead. “I think this may be the start to a new tradition!”

Information provided by Ridgefield School District.

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