BRUNSWICK – A unique way for children and adults to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time is now in place at Brunswick Landing. Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) has installed its StoryWalk® in a meadow behind 179 Neptune Drive — the building that houses CREA’s new office. Laminated pages from a children’s book are attached to wooden stands that are spaced out along an outdoor path. Readers move from storyboard to storyboard along the path to read the entire story.

The Storywalk® currently features the book “Beautiful Blackbird” by Maine resident Ashley Bryan. Ninety-seven-year-old Bryan, who has won many awards for his contributions to children’s literature, has lived on Little Cranberry Island since the 1980s. Gov. Janet Mills proclaimed July 13, 2020 “Ashley Frederick Bryan Day” for his lifetime contributions to the state.

In Beautiful Blackbird, Bryan’s bright collages illustrate an African folktale. At the end of the Storywalk, youngsters are encouraged to sign or draw in a guestbook and are invited to take a small memento of the story home with them.

The newest innovation to CREA’s Storywalk® is laminated translations of the story in both French and Portuguese, designed with New Mainers in mind. A number of New Mainer families live at Brunswick Landing and are within walking distance of Storywalk®.

CREA volunteer Sue Reed, a retired early childhood educator, was a driving force behind the translations, first suggesting the idea and finding most of the translators. She enlisted local residents fluent in French and Portuguese to do the initial translation, then got several New Mainers to tweak the translations to reflect versions of French and Portuguese spoken in Congo and Angola. Reed explains her motivation, saying, “Good stories allow all of us to experience the universal joys and challenges of life, regardless of where we live. Translations enable more families to enjoy this beautiful tale together.”

The experience of moving to a new country whose culture, language, and climate are utterly different is difficult. CREA, whose focus is nature-based education, thinks the translations are a small thing it can do to make New Mainers feel welcome and able to participate in this resource.

Storywalk® is open from dawn to dusk. To visit, park in the small parking lot located near the post bearing the building’s address and occupant names, or the lot across the street. The introductory storyboard is at the parking lot, and the story begins in the field behind the white deck. Storyboards are numbered (look for the number on the base of the storyboard). A favorite activity of pre-literate children is finding the next number!

Don’t miss the Guest Log and memento in a box attached to the deck. And be sure to visit the friendly fox and beautiful Bittern gracing the windows of CREA’s office, overlooking the deck. After enjoying the story, families can extend their outing with a walk at Neptune Woods – a conservation property hosting 4 miles of trails just around the corner.

FMI about CREA, its Storywalk®, and to access many nature-based activities children can do at home, visit CREA’s website at creamaine.org.

The Storywalk® concept was developed in 2007 by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and Kellogg Hubbard Library. Ferguson was working as a chronic disease prevention specialist and was looking for ways to inspire physical activity. She noticed that parents stand around and chat while their children run around getting all the exercise. So, she looked for a free activity that would get both parents and children moving and walking. Storywalk® was born.