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A StoryWalk® in Honor of Deaf Awareness Month

Have you ever heard of a StoryWalk®? This special experience is designed to get kids and adults moving and enjoying books together!

In honor of Deaf Awareness Month, I’ve been fortunate to partner with the Rogers Free Library in Bristol, Rhode Island, to bring my book, My Monster Truck Goes Everywhere with Me, to a special storytime event this month.

If you’re local to Bristol, Rhode Island, mark your calendars for “Story Time at Mount Hope Farm for a special story time with Sarah Griffin at the StoryWalk® on September 12th at 10 a.m.! The story will also be on view for the whole month of September, open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., except holidays.

I’m thrilled to bring American Sign Language (ASL) to the children and families at this exciting event. For both deaf and hearing readers, I believe it’s a great opportunity to learn about ASL and its potential in a fun and engaging way. For more information on how brains are better with sign language, check out this blog. I also discuss the importance of inclusion and representation here.

If you haven’t experienced a StoryWalk®, let’s dig into what these events are all about and how they can help children of all hearing abilities with early literacy.

What is a StoryWalk®?

StoryWalk® was created by Anne Ferguson in Montpelier, Vermont in 2007. Anne pondered what it would take to get parents to join their children in physical activity. Anne worked as a chronic disease prevention specialist, and her knowledge in the field drove her to create something different, fun, and interesting.

Anne set up the first StoryWalk® with the following goals in mind:

  • to encourage family participation,

  • to use books with minimal text that would appeal to all ages (especially children),

  • to showcase short stories that could fit into families’ busy schedules,

  • and to provide a fun event free of charge for all to enjoy.

Anne worked hard to make her idea a reality with a donation from the Vermont Arts Council and a month off work to get it going. She purchased David Ezra Stein’s book Leaves and selected the most popular path in her local park to set up the first-ever StoryWalk®. When Anne reviewed a notebook she’d left for feedback, she felt tremendously encouraged. The StoryWalk® was a success! It was only a short time before she partnered with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library to expand this awesome program.

Soon, she began to partner with several organizations in her community. Partners came from state and local parks, schools, nature centers, child care centers, farmers’ markets, walking path promoters, special event promoters, and libraries.

A Permanent Home for StoryWalk®

Fast forward to October 2022: a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first permanent StoryWalk®, thanks to a partnership between Mount Hope Farm, the Rogers Free Library, and Ruth Maille in Bristol, Rhode Island. This is a big deal because many StoryWalk® events are temporary setups, available for a short time and then gone.

Ruth Maille, the owner of Stumbling Blocks Daycare in Bristol and an author, is like a founding partner—she partnered with Friends of Rogers Free Library and applied for a grant that funded the majority of the project. The rest of the funding came from private donations from local businesses and the local community.

Ruth knows and understands children. She is a mom, educator, author, and parent relationship coach. She works daily on her passion, which is enriching the lives of children. Her book series, The Power of…, is a part of this important work.

Ruth’s desire is to make StoryWalk® a permanent part of the community in Bristol so that generations of children can experience the magic of books. Books can take us on adventures near and far; children use their imaginations to discover new things and learn new lessons. Books help curiosity to flow and make anything possible. A StoryWalk® is a space where all this can happen while creating family memories!

Lauren Clem wrote in the Rhode Island Monthly, “The process took more than a year, as the farm had to apply to the local Historic District Commission to ensure the StoryWalk wouldn’t alter the property’s historic character. In the end, all parties agreed the best place for the StoryWalk was in a grove of trees near the farm’s entrance” (2022).

Getting Involved with StoryWalk®

Ruth reached out to partner with me for StoryWalk® this September in Rhode Island at the Mount Hope Farm in Bristol. I am so honored and thrilled that children there will have the opportunity to experience the seemingly magical experience of American Sign Language. It was a captivating moment for me when I learned a song in ASL, experiencing the beauty and power of the language. I have become a lifelong learner, discovering something new every day. I have learned that ASL is an untapped resource with limitless potential—that our brains are capable of more than we tend to believe.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for September 12th at 10 a.m. if you’re local to Bristol. For more information on StoryWalk®, read about it here—and don’t forget to visit your local library to check for children’s events near you!

Clem, Lauren. “Bring Story Time Outside at the New Mount Hope Farm StoryWalk - Rhode Island Monthly.” Rhode Island Monthly, October 18, 2022.

Ferguson, Anne. “The StoryWalk® Project,” August 2017.

K-H Library. “StoryWalk | K-H Library,” n.d.

Ruth Maille. “The Power of Series.,” March 7, 2023.

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