A group from the City of Augusta School Age Childcare Program pauses Wednesday to read a framed book page before heading to the next stop along the city’s new StoryWalk. The installation features 18 pages of a picture book staggered along a walking trail to encourage youngsters to get exercise while also boosting literacy skills. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — The sounds of children imitating animal noises carried down the length of a trail near Farrington Elementary School. The youngsters were imitating the noises of animals they had just learned about while walking and reading along with the city’s new StoryWalk.

The installation features 18 posts, each with laminated pages of a children’s book mounted to them, staggered along a walking trail that runs from the elementary school to Cony Street. The idea is kids and other trail users will stop at each installation and read the pages before continuing on. By the time they’ve walked the length of the trail and back, they will have read the whole book.

The path is meant to promote literacy in a fun and engaging way while also providing physical activity in the great outdoors — and time with family, said Theresa Violette, president of Augusta Literacy for ME, and an Augusta school administrator.

Appropriately selected for a walk in the woods, the first story to be featured is “The Wildlife Tree,” by author Peter Emery and illustrator Deborah Emery, a Wayne couple. The book describes some of the wildlife that can be found in and around dead trees, and shows how they can still provide shelter and other needs to woodland creatures such as red foxes, squirrels, racoons, chickadees, owls, bats and bobcats.

The couple was on hand to help open the permanent StoryWalk this week, along with a large group of children from the city’s childcare programs.

A group from the City of Augusta School Age Childcare Program walks toward another framed book page along the city’s new StoryWalk on Wednesday. The installation features 18 pages of a picture book staggered along a walking trail to encourage youngsters to get exercise while also boosting literacy skills. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We’re really excited to share it with you today,” Deborah Emery said while talking about the book before the children took to the trail to read it. She and Peter Emery noted some of the animals in the book can likely be found in the woods along the path. Peter Emery suggested the kids look for trees with holes in them, some of which were made by woodpeckers, and spoke of the life that can be found even in dead trees in the forest.


“In these so-called dead trees, we found out, there was all kinds of life,” he said. “As long as they’re not going to fall on you, or your house, then leave a few wildlife trees there.”

The books will be changed periodically, so families who walk the trail and read the book can come back some other time and read a different books, according to Violette.

Collaborators on the project included Augusta Literacy for ME, Literacy Volunteers of Kennebec County, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area and the city of Augusta’s parks and recreation crew, who installed the posts.

The concept was first developed by Anne Ferguson in Montpellier, Vermont, and there are several such trails scattered across the region, including ones in Readfield and Waterville.

Illustrator Deborah Emery, left, and author Peter Emery play a wildlife sound on a speaker Wednesday as they tell children about their book, “The Wildlife Tree.” The book is the first to be featured along the city’s new StoryWalk. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The trail the Augusta StoryWalk is on was built last year and runs roughly from Farrington Elementary School off Eastern Avenue through a short section of woods to Cony Street, where a sidewalk continues on to the Cony High School and Capital Area Technical Center campus.

Students at the regional technical high school helped with the effort, with building and trades students making the stands under the direction of instructor Tom Holzwarth, graphic design students creating the signs for the project and student Courtney Bacon helping with the design.

To follow the book, walkers should read the pages on the right hand side, turn around at the end of the trail at Cony Street and then read the pages on the other side of the trail on their way back to where they started.

Nan Bell, coordinator of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area’s Let’s Go! program, said StoryWalks are great ways to promote literacy, physical activity and togetherness. Let’s Go seeks to work with schools, child care programs and families to encourage kids to make healthy food choices and be physically active to help prevent childhood obesity.

The last stop on the StoryWalk includes suggestions for activities families can do to connect with what was learned in the book. For the current book, suggested activities include camping out in your backyard, going for other nature walks, designing a fairy house, going to a park and building a birdhouse. And, as the kids checking out the trail and book did Wednesday, you can walk through the woods and hoot like an owl.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story