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In New Port Richey, they were taking a walk in the park, one page at a time

The New Port Richey Public Library’s Story Walk mixes literacy with the great outdoors.

NEW PORT RICHEY — For 4-year-old Cadynce Nettles a Saturday morning walk in the park took on new meaning March 7 as the New Port Richey Public Library celebrated the opening of a permanent installation called StoryWalk at the James E. Grey Preserve.

Her mom, Amy Garton, could barely keep up with Cadynce, who bounded down the trail looking for the next page of a rhyming book called, The Busy Tree, by Jennifer Ward.

A panel from a new installation called StoryWalk at the James. E. Grey Preserve in New Port Richey. It is part of a trademarked concept created in 2007 by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. [MICHELE MILLER | Times]

“I love it,” Garton said. “It’s so much fun — the different ways the kids can interact with it (the story) out here in the park.”

The library’s StoryWalk is part of a larger concept created in 2007 by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. Books are literally taken apart and made into a series of stops along walking and biking paths as a way to get kids to get up and move. The trademarked StoryWalk program has since cropped up in localities throughout the United States and in other countries.

“It’s been in my mind for several years. Now, it’s finally here,” said youth librarian Jessica Meredith at an opening attended by Mayor Rob Marlowe, City Manager Debbie Manns and other local notables.

Jessica Meredith, youth librarian, New Port Richey Public Library [MICHELE MILLER | Times]

“This is the best part of my job,” Marlowe said, while taking a lap on the trail.

The New Port Richey Library’s StoryWalk features 18 stations with laminated pages from The Busy Tree adhered to wooded stands sprinkled along a quarter-mile trail. Each panel also has accompanying activity to follow, whether it be to “find other words that rhyme with tree,” count the legs of a spider or pretend you are flying like a squirrel through the tree canopy.

Friends of the Library provided $5,000 to fund the literacy project.

“I think it’s just heartwarming,” said Friends president Bonnie Martin. “Nature, the park, literacy education, all rolled into one. It’s wonderful. And it’s free."

Bonnie Martin, president of Friends of the New Port Richey Public Library [MICHELE MILLER | Times]

And who knows what kind of things you might learn along the way.

“Caterpillars actually turn into moths?" an incredulous Reid Monge, 6, asked his mom, Andrea Monge, who launched a lively discussion about the life cycle of moths and butterflies, too.

Reid Monge, 6, and mom, Andrea Monge, read a page from the children's book, 'The Lively Tree," during the opening of a permanent installation called StoryWalk at James E. Grey Preserve in New Port Richey. [MICHELE MILLER | Times]

Book selections will change quarterly to keep people coming back to the park, Meredith said, adding that James. E. Grey Preserve was selected to bring a little attention to one of the lesser-known parks in the area.

“A lot of people don’t think of literacy activities outside the library walls," she said. "This is a good way to bring skills to the park, and do it as a family.”

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