HOLDREGE — Wendy Wyatt always has had a love for children’s and picture books.
Her mother, Lois Leeson, was an elementary school librarian and inspired Wyatt’s passion for books. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer in April, Wyatt wanted to find a way to honor her.
She decided to bring a StoryWalk to her home of Holdrege and dedicate the first book to her mother. Wyatt knew about the Storybook Walk in Kearney each year, but when she began researching the project she discovered the StoryWalk Program.
The StoryWalk Program began in 2007 in Montpelier, Vt., when Anne Ferguson wanted to provide a literacy resource to families but also to get them moving outside. She took pages from books, laminated each page and mounted them on stakes along a trail. She called it the StoryWalk Project and had it trademarked.
“They figured out how to combine community spirit and exercise and family fun and reading all in the same summer,” Wyatt said.
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Wyatt approached the Holdrege City Council about her idea in April, and they approved her idea for Holdrege StoryWalk. The first book, “Chalk” by Bill Thomson, was erected at the end of May in Holdrege’s South Park and was dedicated to her mother.
“I put the first book up right before I went to visit her to say goodbye. I was able to show her pictures of it. I took copies of the three books and showed it to her in her room. She did like it,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt’s goal is to display books that have beautiful images, but that also have some connection to the place they are located. In July, Wyatt put up a new StoryWalk book along the walking trail on the west side of North Park. The book, “Wild About Books” by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown, is about a bookmobile librarian who takes a wrong turn and accidentally goes to the zoo, Wyatt said.
“This is a book I loved about loving books,” she said.
When picking books for the StoryWalk, Wyatt tries to pick pieces that have attractive illustrations and aren’t too lengthy. The current book fits on 16 panels, and she hopes it will appeal to all age groups.
“A lot of times the big brother and big sister can just read to the younger one. I try to make it so it’s not just tedious for the adults; it’s got some fun to it,” she said.
She also wants the walk to take people places they may not often explore in their town. This month’s book ends at the Promise of the Prairie statue, something regular visitors to the park may typically bypass.
Next month’s book will be “C is for Cornhusker” by Rajean Luebs Shepherd, a book that was given to Wyatt before she moved to Nebraska.
“It’s an alphabet book. I thought it would be good for back-to-school season,” she said.
Wyatt originally planned to do the StoryWalk for three months, but people have come forward to sponsor more books and to keep the project going. Wyatt has ideas for placing books in different parts of town, and she enjoys keeping people guessing what she is going to do next.
She keeps a log at the end of the StoryWalk for visitors to sign and leave comments. She’s had people around town say how much they enjoy the project and thank her for bringing it to Holdrege.
“I know a lot of people will send me pictures or different things of kids liking it. There’s enough response that I’m happy with it,” she said.