February 27, 2024

Walkin’ & readin’

Library introduces plans for permanent StoryWalk at Agnes Patterson

By next year, children and their families will be able to read an entire picture book from front to back when taking a leisurely stroll through Agnes Patterson Memorial Park.

The Newton Public Library is working with local businesses and organizations to introduce an official StoryWalk to the city park near the 3000 block of North Fourth Avenue East. Organizers anticipate the displays will be filled with new books regularly during the summer and will last for years to come.

Created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt., and developed alongside the Kellogg Hubbard Library and Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, the StoryWalk Project presents a page-by-page children’s book mounted on signs on a community pathway. The project promotes physical activity and the importance of reading in a community.

Phyllis Peter, the youth services librarian, received positive feedback when she pitched the idea to Newton Park Board members during their Sept. 18 meeting. She estimated 28 to 30 sign postings would be needed for the project, all of which will likely be scattered around the outer rim of Agnes Patterson Park.

Support for the incoming StoryWalk is strong. The Newton Wellness Coalition has already partnered with the library to back its initiative. Sheri Benson, a member of the coalition, said the project supports the group’s mission to promote “physical, nutritional, social and emotional well-being” in the community.

Benson added that Newton-based Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy will be the primary sponsor for the StoryWalk. The library will regularly swap out books to keep families interested in continued visits to the park.

According to StoryWalk documents, 20 frames cost approximately $4,500 with wood posts or $5,700 with aluminum posts.

Compared to the past StoryWalk-inspired displays at Maytag Park, Peter said the Agnes Patterson fixtures will be more permanent and made of a more durable material, including weather-proof frames.

City of Newton’s parks staff have agreed to provide labor for installation of the signs once everything is set in place.

The route has yet to be finalized, too. Currently, Peter envisions a StoryWalk that begins near the parking lot of the Newton Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and extends north, then curves west around the soccer fields, continues southbound on the edge of the softball fields and then east along North Fourth Avenue East.

“It’s about a mile,” Peter said. “If we’re going to encourage wellness we might as well go for the full mile. We thought this was a good location because Agnes Patterson has such good sidewalks.”

Sidewalks at the park are already wide enough for strollers and bicyclists; however, city staff said the StoryWalk postings may need to be three feet away from the sidewalk so as not to impede passing cyclist traffic. This may require an extra platform of concrete to be added perpendicular to the pathway.

“Maybe this will bring more foot traffic,” Peter said. “I think it will be a great way to boost literacy and encourage families to enjoy a book together.”

Peter expects the project will be finished by May 2020.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com