BERRYVILLE – Children and their families can now exercise their brains as well as their bodies while walking at Chet Hobert Park.
During its 30th anniversary celebration Friday evening, the Clarke County Education Foundation (CCEF) unveiled its new StoryWalk.
Twenty signs have been installed along the park’s two-mile trail. Each has a page of a children’s book for walkers to pause and read, along with discussion prompts.
“It’s a delightful way for children and adults to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time,” said DG Cooley Elementary School librarian Ann Bishop, who originally had the idea to develop a StoryWalk.
“If I Built a Car,” by Chris Van Dusen, is the first book on display. In the book, a boy describes in detail how he would build his dream car.
StoryWalk is intended to help parents encourage their children to develop literacy skills, as well as to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, according to CCEF Executive Director Beth Williams.
Numerous sources of health information show that reading stimulates brain function, such as by improving memory and concentration.
Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, developed the StoryWalk concept in 2007 while working for the state’s health department. She collaborated with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier.
StoryWalks have since been developed in all 50 states and 13 countries, Bishop said.
CCEF funded the local StoryWalk as a gift to the community, Williams said, estimating the total cost at about $ 9,500.
A donor’s commitment to the foundation will cover ongoing costs for maintaining the signs and updating them with new books 3-4 times a year, she said.
Clarke County Parks and Recreation and the Clarke County Public Schools helped with the project.
“Our community is made up of families,” said county School Board Chairwoman Monica Singh-Smith. The StoryWalk, she said, is “something for everyone (in a family) to enjoy together,” regardless of their ages.
Established in 1991, CCEF is an independent, nonprofit organization that strives to expand unique learning opportunities for both students and staff within the county schools. During the past three decades, it has provided more than $ 3 million in scholarships to students, grants to teachers and other projects through a combination of fundraising efforts and endowment income.
“We’re stronger than ever before,” Williams said. She mentioned, for instance, that the foundation awarded more scholarships than ever to Clarke County High School students this year.
More information about the foundation is online at www.ccefinc.org.
Those who attended the 30th anniversary celebration enjoyed free admission to the swimming pool at the park, off West Main Street (Va. 7 Business) west of Berryville, beside Cooley Elementary. They also enjoyed a free showing of the family-oriented movie “Paw Patrol.”
The line of people waiting to enter the pool area was lengthy. A few people initially had to be turned away when the pool reached its safety capacity.