A guided walk around Considine Park in Martinborough that combines the love of reading with the great outdoors is celebrating its first birthday this month.
Martinborough’s StoryWalk® was launched in November 2022 and has since featured eight stories written by local authors, including Phillip and Dale Percy’s Mr Phelps’ Fish Truck, Daniel’s Matariki Feast by Rebecca Bayer and Linley Wellington and Kara the Kākāpō written by Danni Rae.
The concept is wonderfully simple – the pages of the featured book are displayed on weatherproof boards stationed along the tree-lined lime path that curves around Considine Park.
The story unfolds as you walk, or in the case of [generally] younger readers, hop, skip, run and jump.
StoryWalk® was originally developed by Anne Ferguson from Vermont, America, in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library to inspire reading in a creative way.
They are now installed throughout America and in 12 nations worldwide.
It’s a park feature that’s become popular with children and adults, StoryWalk® teller and supporter Charlotte Harding said. “It appeals to all.”
Bringing StoryWalk® to Martinborough was a collaborative effort, Harding said, championed by Wairarapa Library Service [WLS] librarian Sylvia Arnold, funded by the Friends of Martinborough Library, authorised by South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] and with story stations built by the local Men’s Shed.
Arnold was attracted to the concept because it puts “the library out in the community and it’s reaching people that might not come into a library space”.
“Particularly for children, it’s such a fun, engaging activity that who knows, it might encourage somebody to bring [their children] into the library and get a book out.”
A special birthday walk to read the latest book – The Grizzled Grist Does Not Exist by Juliette MacIver – was included in the Wairarapa Walking Festival programme and attended by more than 10 pre-schoolers and their parents and caregivers.
It was a great opportunity to get outside, one parent said. “I like the idea of going on a little adventure and discovering a story we are not familiar with.”
Harding’s ambition is to change the story along the StoryWalk® more often, but dealing with publishers for the right permissions can be tricky, she said.
To overcome this challenge, the walk often features the work of self-published writers, such as Phillip Percy, author of three children’s books based on familiar Wairarapa personalities.
Percy’s book, Mr Phelps’ Fish Truck, was one of the first to be installed along the trail.
“It was a really nice surprise to see it in place”, he said. “The cool thing about StoryWalk® is it gets kids in front of books, and that’s what it’s all about. Sitting inside reading a book isn’t going to suit all kids.”
Using local, self-published authors gave Arnold the “initial confidence that we had [a book] to go” when the walk launched last year and has enabled her to approach other publishers, who have been “very generous”.
Harding would also like to see a StoryWalk® in a park in every Wairarapa town and it’s a vision Arnold shares.
“I think there is scope for that to happen and it would involve working with people in those communities to understand what they would like.”