The Rotary Club of Douglas County received a $1,500 grant for a ‘StoryWalk Project.’

The StoryWalk project is taking the pages of a children’s storybook and displaying them along the walking trails of Deer Lick and Hunter Park for families and students to enjoy, while also encouraging early literacy and physical activity.

In July of 2020 the Club was awarded $1,500 from a (Rotary) District 6900 Grant for the project, which was recently installed at the two local parks. A ribbon-cutting with the Douglas County Chamber is scheduled at Hunter Park on March 31, 2021 at 11:30 a.m.

Samantha Rosado, tourism program manager, Douglasville Convention & Visitors Bureau, who is also president of Douglas County Rotary, was contacted by phone and explained what the project is about.

“We’re displaying local author, Kim Eldredge’s children’s story in our StoryWalk,” Rosado said.

Eldredge’s story, “The Sky is the Limit” is on panels that present two pages on each of nine panels in Deer Lick Park and nine more panels in Hunter Park, Rosado explained.

“Part one is at Hunter and Part two is at Deer Lick. They’re around the walking trail at both parks on PVC panels that we installed in the ground, so while a family is walking the trail they’re also reading the story,” she said.

The Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville/Douglas County will also be installing some cut-out structures at the end of the StoryWalk prior to the ribbon-cutting that visitors to the park can use to pose with for photo opportunities, she said.

“Integrating arts and literacy enriches child development and learning. Incorporating this with the parks allows for the citizens to get out and walk the parks, enjoy nature, art, and reading all in one,” said Cultural Arts Council Executive Director Emily Lightner, in an emailed response.

Eldredge, contacted by phone, said she was notified several months ago that her book had been chosen for the project and explained the book’s origins.

“I retired after 31 years of teaching. Following retirement I found I continue to have a desire to affect children’s lives.”

“ ‘The Sky is the Limit’ is a book that seeks to inspire people of all ages to believe in themselves and also to instill a love of learning. Taking inspiration from and dedicating the book to her father, who worked on the Lunar Module Project prior to moving to Georgia,” she said.

Eldredge said she wrote the book in 2017. Her favorite age group is kids in fourth through seventh grades, who can begin to engage concepts in the book.

According to Rosado in some emailed information, research shows that children who are engaged in reading at an early age are more likely to succeed in higher education and have better outcomes in life. Economic factors also play a role in literacy learning, and in areas where there are low-income families, studies show that reading has already become an issue for children entering grade school.

“We believe that providing a fun and active way to read to your child while bringing families together and encouraging physical activity all at once is a win-win for our community, and StoryWalk is the answer,” said Rosado.

Eldredge, who plans to attend the ribbon-cutting, advises visitors to check her website at ickfridbooks.com prior to going to the park.

“The most meaningful thing that parents and teachers can do is to visit my website before taking their students or children to the StoryWalk. The first page of the site has free downloadable conversation starters. The conversations and lessons ‘The Sky is the Limit’ can bring up are many and can get deeper and more meaningful as a child grows. For example, I made the judge in the book be blind so the adults could bring up conversations about how justice is supposed to be blind. And then I make challenges to them about how to advance that concept,” she said.

Rosado said the project is, at this stage, only in the two parks, but could be expanded. And this installation as it exists will remain indefinitely.

“I don’t know if it’s something that we’ll expand or if the parks will expand, but I would love for it to be — I just don’t know in what capacity it will actually do that,” Rosado said.