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26 Nov, Saturday
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Montreal Families

Westmount library hosts outdoor storytime

It may be winter but you can still head to the Westmount Library for an enchanting (outdoor!) storytime.

Available all winter in front of the library and heading into Westmount Park, StoryWalk is a creative and engaging way for children and adults to  read and spend time together outside. To create a StoryWalk, pages from a children’s book are mounted and posted along an outdoor path or trail, where readers are directed to the next page in the story. Skip, hop, or stroll along the path while taking turns reading aloud, or spend some quiet time under the trees while following along page by page.

StoryWalk has been a part of the Westmount Public Library’s resident outreach programs since 2016, featuring children’s stories year-round, as well as panels that showed historic postcards from Westmount.

This winter, the library is featuring the bilingual book If I Couldn’t Be Anne (Si je n’étais pas Anne) authored by Kallie George and illustrated by Geneviève Godbout, and inspired by the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

A charming story for all ages

“We noticed during the pandemic that more and more people of all ages are out for walks in our community parks. And we know that the classic Anne of Green Gables story resonates with people from different generations – the young and the young at heart!” says Wendy Wayling, Children’s Librarian at Westmount Public Library. “This beautiful picture book illustrated by the award-winning Montreal illustrator Geneviève Godbout introduces Anne to a whole new generation. It is delightful, charming and a nice contrast to our long winter.”

Wayling added that a bilingual book is always chosen and so far all the books have been Canadian. “We are planning a launch of the StoryWalk with the author and illustrator end of January/beginning of February – all virtual of course!”


Prolong your visit with a trip to the park

Stretch out your outing by bringing along hot chocolate for an open-air picnic once you reach the end of the book, running about in the nearby playground, or trying out your skills at the park’s all-weather musical equipment. You can even bring your skates to enjoy Westmount Parks’ new refrigerated and festively illuminated rink.

Public libraries supporting healthy communities

While libraries remain closed for in-person services, they’ve pivoted to providing creative programming aimed at keeping people mentally and physically active. Pointe-Claire Municipal Library recently offered its residents holiday activity kits, eight Montreal borough libraries lend out musical instruments, La Petite-Patrie Library offers a walking kit for a self-guided “Nostalgic Walk” through the neighbourhood, while others are urging patrons to keep active through virtual exercise classes, Zoom cooking lessons, city-wide scavenger hunts, and sidewalk obstacle courses.

Montreal Families recently spoke with Dr. Noah Lenstra, an assistant professor of library and information studies at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, and creator of the international Let’s Move In Libraries initiative. Lenstra studies and teaches about community engagement in libraries and has noticed a profound increase in the popularity of outdoor programming and movement-based programs such as StoryWalks.

According to research Lenstra has done as part of his leadership of the Let’s Move in Libraries initiative, between March 15 and December 18, 2020, 825 online articles about public library StoryWalk initiatives in the U.S. and Canada were published. “This represents a dramatic increase from the same time period in 2019, when only 144 articles were published,” Lenstra says. “This more than five-fold increase in StoryWalk stories can be attributed to public libraries turning their attention to outdoor spaces during the pandemic. This interest in outdoor spaces among libraries continues during the winter months.”

Interested in bringing a StoryWalk to your library? Contact your local librarian or municipality to share this program with them.

The StoryWalk Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT, and developed in collaboration with the help of Rachel Senechal, and the Kellogg-Hubbard Library.

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