Barbara Walsh, left, reads her book, “The Lobster Lady: Maine’s 102 year old legend,” to Henry Trefethen, Wylan Dubord and others Sept. 8 during opening ceremonies for a new StoryWalk at Readfield Elementary School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

READFIELD — The message that comes with local author Barbara Walsh’s latest book about Ginny, the 102-year-old lobster woman from Maine, is one that encourages people of all ages to get up and move around, no matter their age — a seemingly perfect theme for the first official story at the Readfield Elementary School StoryWalk. 

The StoryWalk was installed last year but Walsh, along with Readfield Library Director Melissa Small hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 8 where Walsh read and lead the walk through the path at the school for around 35 attendees.  

Walsh’s children’s book, “The Lobster Lady: Maine’s 102 year old Legend,” features Rockland’s Virgina Oliver, who became a local celebrity when the area caught wind of how at her age, she continued to lobster fish three days a week.  

Walsh saw her featured on the television program, “207” and soon enough, Walsh was on the lobster boat and walking through Hannaford Supermarket with her to learn her story. 

“With Ginny, she’s out there, she’s still lobstering and engaging and that’s an important message as you get older to not be in front of a TV or phone,” Walsh said. “She’s a role model for all of us and especially as people age.” 

StoryWalks are not a new concept to Walsh, but it was the first time her book had been featured in one and she knew and was familiar with Small and the Readfield Library after doing several story time readings for children in the area.  


When Small thought of a story to feature at the grand opening, “it all fell into place,” she said. 

“Barbara (Walsh) says herself that it’s a story from ages 2 to 102 and everyone can enjoy it,” Small said. “It’s a story about a Maine woman and a true story that all ages can appreciate and learn from.” 

Barbara Walsh, center, reads her book, “The Lobster Lady: Maine’s 102 year old legend,” to children Sept. 8 during opening ceremonies for new StoryWalk at Readfield Elementary School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Readfield Elementary School StoryWalk is the second StoryWalk in Readfield, but it was installed at the same time as the StoryWalk behind the Readfield Library. 

Small, with the help of Jada Clark, a nurse in Regional School Unit 38 which includes Readfield, installed two StoryWalk locations in the town with a small $400 grant from Let’s Go!, as well as outsourcing from members in the community for the materials.  

Two student classes — one at Maranacook Community High School and another at Kents Hill School in Readfield — created the structures for two story walks, with each class creating all the units for one location.  

A page of Barbara Walsh’s book, “The Lobster Lady: Maine’s 102 year old legend,” seen in a case Sept. 8 during the opening ceremony for the new StoryWalk at Readfield Elementary School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Both StoryWalks were installed in May 2021, but the Readfield Elementary School location did not officially open until this year because of efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 situation at the schools by not attracting more people to the area. 


Though books were installed over this summer, they were not advertised. 

The Maine Library Association asked librarians from all around the state where their StoryWalks are located and the general response they have gained from having them.  

Librarians from Orono, Bridgton, Auburn and Fryeburg and others replied, with most saying it proved to be a great activity during the pandemic for families to do. 

“When COVID-19 first swept across the world, we were all navigating the best way to continue providing library services to patrons,” one librarian said. “With more families showing interest in outdoor programs, a StoryWalk seemed like a perfect offering to support our community. StoryWalks foster children’s interest in reading while also encouraging health activity.” 

Tory Rogers first brought a StoryWalk to Maine around 14 years ago after hearing about the idea through the founder, Anne Ferguson, and her sister-in-law at a birthday party in Vermont.

Pediatrician Tory Rogers brought StoryWalks to Maine after having a conversation with Anne Ferguson around 14 years ago. Tory Rogers

As a listener in the conversation with Ferguson, Rogers thought it was “the coolest thing,” but as a pediatrician, Rogers saw the link of how it could help meet goals with physical activity and learning. 


“There is data on how we learn and the more you move, the better your learning is,” Rogers said. “There are so many studies if you get them (children) up for 15 minutes and they are active, then have them sit down and take a test, the activity of the kids who were physically active before a test did significantly better than the kids sitting and doing something else.” 

Rogers is a pediatrician at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center and senior director of Let’s Go!, a program that strives for children to have healthy habits. She believes the first StoryWalk was at Freeport Elementary School. 

Ferguson started StoryWalks a year before she met Rogers in Vermont, in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier.  

Now, 15 years later, it’s unknown how many StoryWalks there are, but they have spread to all 50 states and 20 countries. Ferguson supplies the program for free and said that as of recently, she has fielded calls from New Zealand, Israel and Estonia on starting StoryWalks. 

 According to her, the state with the most StoryWalks is Massachusetts; the Boston Children’s Museum and Boston Public Library even received a “Race to the Top” grant during the administration of former President Barack Obama.  

“They prepared multiple books in StoryWalk format and distributed them across the state to community workers in the field of early literacy,” Ferguson told the Kennebec Journal. “It was very exciting!”  


A group from the city of Augusta’s school age childcare program walks toward another framed book page as they make their way along the new story June 29 on the new story trail in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

In order to put a book in a “StoryWalk format,” two copies of the children’s book are needed and are split open at the spine so it can fit in the clear casing on the wood pillar. Two copies are needed because when displayed, the back page will not be shown.  

Ferguson said she has seen StoryWalks on the beach, in schools, at libraries and parks, and even in cities and playgrounds.  

Nan Bell, the Let’s Go! coordinator for Southern Kennebec County and the program that originally gave Small and Clark the grant to start the Readfield StoryWalks, said she first discovered one in Cumberland at her grandson’s baseball game.  

“It was like finding gold,” she said.   

Barbara Walsh, back, reads her book, “The Lobster Lady: Maine’s 102-year-old legend,” to Gavia Hasenfus and others Sept. 8 during opening ceremonies for new StoryWalk at Readfield Elementary School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Since then, Bell has tried to fund StoryWalks around the area and more recently, helped with the installation of the StoryWalk at Farrington Elementary School in Augusta.   

She became passionate about them after finding the one with her grandson and because it can be a healthy way for children to get outside, like Roger’s reasoning.  

“I think it’s a silver lining to COVID,” she said. “More people have looked to get outside and there are a lot more people using (walking or hiking) trails and looking for activities geared towards children outside and engaging kids.  

“Not that it wouldn’t have taken off that way, but people are catching onto the idea that it’s a free family activity that you can do outside.”  

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