Visitors in Webster Park, read through "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats. The book is the first for the newly unveiled story walk was that was powered by American Rescue Plan Act money and charitable donations from the Orono-Old Town Kiwanis and the Orono Masons. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The pages of the classic wintertime children’s book “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats are now scattered throughout Orono’s Webster Park.
The colorful pages of the book, mounted on podiums in protective casing, are set intentionally all over the park with activities built into them as part of a project to get kids and their families active and exposed to literature. The project — the Orono story walk — was unveiled at Webster Park last Wednesday and is a new, permanent fixture. 

In Webster Park, visitors can find from start to finish “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats scattered throughout. The story walk was powered by American Rescue Plan Act money and charitable donations from the Orono-Old Town Kiwanis and the Orono Masons. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The walk, which takes readers all over the park, was funded by American Rescue Plan Act funds and donations from the Orono-Old Town Kiwanis club and the Orono Masons.

Story walks have appeared across the country at schools, libraries and museums. In Orono’s case, the drive to create one locally came during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Orono Public Library was closed, children’s librarian Lindsay Varnum said. 

“It’s a great way for us to have kids and families be exposed to the literature when they might not be comfortable coming into the library,” Varnum said. “And the library — before I joined in August — had been shut down. Families couldn’t come inside at all. So this is a great way for the books to be available for families all the time.”

By combining reading and walking, children and their families are able to enjoy one of the town’s outdoor spaces while learning something and moving around, Varnum said. 

The idea is that the park will feature a different book each season, she said. 

“We’re just really excited to be able to bring this to Orono,” Varnum said. “There are story walks throughout the state, and we’re just excited that we have one in Orono that is more permanent.”

The American Rescue Plan funds paying for the $5,250 project came to the Orono Public Library through the Maine State Library, according to Laurie Carpenter, the Orono library’s director. 

When looking for the next books to feature, Varnum said the focus will be on finding interesting books that offer some built-in activities. 

With the current book, for example, there are instructions for readers to walk with their toes pointed out as they move from one station to another, emulating how the book’s main character walks through the snow. 

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...