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Wesley and Zach Racs experience a book in a new way thanks to StoryWalk, a program that
allows children to visualize a book one page at a time as they walk around a nature trail.

Photo submitted

Originally published: 2012-06-21 12:36:20
Last modified: 2012-06-21 12:39:21

Children learn to read in area parks this summer

Justin Grimes / (

Avery County’s award winning Smart Start takes its free summer reading series outside into area parks. The new program, StoryWalk, was made possible by a $1,000 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. 

StoryWalk is a natural and innovative compliment to Smart Start’s successful Raising-A-Reader’s structured literacy program for children ages birth to five years old, which presently serves more than 400 Avery children. The StoryWalk Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt. 

Jeana Byrd, Raising-A-Reader coordinator, and Sara Yackey, executive director of Avery County’s Smart Start, A Partnership For Children Inc., said that they were “thrilled beyond belief” at receiving the grant. “We feel so fortunate to qualify for this grant, which will enable us to continue to provide unique opportunities for the residents of Avery County to read,” Yackey said.

Local and visiting children can explore the great outdoors as they improve their literacy. 

“StoryWalk is a whole new way to experience a book,” Byrd said. 

Yackey added that visitors to the High Country should take their children to the StoryWalks. “What a great learning and bonding experience,” she said.

StoryWalk allows children to visualize a book one page at a time as they walk around the trails. Children can take as much time as they desire to enjoy great books in a whole new setting. A guestbook is available for the children to sign.

Every three weeks a new story will be posted on the trail.

StoryWalk locations are Banner Elk’s Tate-Evans Park (turn left at the bridge behind the band shelter); Crossnore Elementary School (around the bog, walk to the left of the school); and Riverside Elementary School (behind the bottom playground on the nature trail).

Byrd also encourages parents, grandparents or caregivers to bring the children and join her for the free ‘Summer Story Time in the Park.’

Byrd will lead the Summer Story Time at the following parks and the Bookmobile is scheduled to attend on certain days:

• Banner Elk Tate-Evans Park at the band shelter: every Monday in June and July at 10 a.m.

• Crossnore Elementary School playground: every Tuesday in June and July, except July 3, at 10 a.m., Bookmobile on July 10

• Riverside Elementary School playground: every Wednesday in June and July, except July 4, at 10 a.m., Bookmobile on June 27 and July 25

Avery County Smart Start has implemented the Raising-A-Reader program in the county’s daycare and child development centers, the Pre-K classrooms in each elementary school, the two licensed family childcare homes, the two Head Start locations and in community groups in each elementary school. 

“Our goal is to have each of the county’s 1,000 children ages birth to five years participating in the program,” Yackey said. “We encourage any parent or guardian of a young child to contact our office for more information on how to participate in the literacy program or for more information about StoryWalk.”

Avery Smart Start, A Partnership for Children is a nonprofit organization that depends partially upon private contributions. Yackey expressed her gratitude for the more than $40,000 that was contributed this year by foundations, individuals and businesses. “In these difficult state budget times, every contribution helps,” Yackey said.

For more information, click to or call (828) 733-2899.