Residents of Fernie and Sparwood might notice the storywalk signs spread throughout town in the coming months for the Summer Stories Around Town program. Photo Submitted

Summer Stories Around Town program encourages outdoor reading in Elk Valley

With storywalks and clothesline stories in Fernie and Sparwood, everyone can get reading

This summer is going to be different. Travel plans will likely be closer to home. Large events might be virtual and summer programming for families in Fernie and Sparwood will look very different from what locals are used to.

In the past, the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre (FWRC) and Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) have worked together to provide Mountain Kids in the Park, a weekly program for families with children zero to six years old. Mountain Kids would often have over 70 children and their caregivers, playing together in tunnels, in the mud, in sprinklers and sharing snacks and stories. As the world changes to a new normal, one with social distancing and community health in mind, programs are having to adapt as well.

Summer Stories Around Town (SSAT) will be replacing Mountain Kids in the Park.

“We are looking at this as an exciting opportunity to try something new this year” explained CBAL community literacy coordinator Chrisy Hill. “Our new program will be available to everyone in both Fernie and Sparwood!”

SSAT will be weekly Storywalks and Clothesline stories in various locations around both towns. The collaboration between FWRC and CBAL has been expanded to include l’Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRoS). This expansion will ensure the Summer Stories Around Town is completely bilingual.

“We are pretty sure this is the first ever fully bilingual event in both Fernie and Sparwood,” said AFRoS’s coordinator Maylis Destremau. “We are very proud of this. And thankful to our funders, especially Heritage Canada for making this possible.”

“I have never seen a Storywalk done before,” says Andy Coe, early years coordinator at the FWRC. “And I don’t think I had ever heard of a clothesline story before this project.”

A Storywalk is a fun, engaging way to combine literacy and physical activity in the outdoors. Each page of a story will be posted separately and spread out along a path. Sometimes there are instructions as to how to move to the next page/location such as “walk backwards to the next sign”.

A Clothesline story is similar to a Storywalk, except the pages will be hung along a clothesline. This method will be used in smaller spaces where there may not be enough room to space pages out along a path.

Each week, in both Fernie and Sparwood, a new book will be used in a different location and left in place for the entire week. The organizers of SSAT hope this will provide enough time and space to keep to the provincial guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19. They ask that to help them with this, people do not touch the pages as they engage with this project.

Research has shown that if a reader does an activity related to the book they just read, their retention and comprehension is greater. Therefore, each story will have a related craft or activity package available at no cost. The Take and Make packages can be picked up from the undercover carport next to the CBAL office, A1-402 Highway 3, and in Sparwood at the public library.

There will also be opportunities to win prizes! Anyone that posts a photo of their Take and Make or Storywalk adventure, and uses the hashtags #SummerStoriesAroundTown and #StoryWalkElkValley will be entered for that week’s draw.

All of the books used will be posted in both English and French. And although they are all beautiful children’s picture books, the program is meant for all ages to enjoy. Some of the stories include The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, and Silly Sally by Audrey Wood. There will be eight stories in total. One each week with the first starting July 15 and the last story starting September 2, 2020.

The first story will be around the splash park in Sparwood and in Fernie the first location is still to be confirmed. Keep an eye out on Facebook for the location for Fernie and Sparwood each week.

The organizers are starting simple with basic supplies. Each organization involved runs on donations and grant funding. Anyone wishing to support this project financially or with better more permanent supplies, such as wooden signs on stakes, are asked to contact CBAL at 250-946-7257.

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