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USM’s School of Library & Information Science Bringing StoryWalk® to Downtown’s Hattiesburg Pocket Museum May 22

Fri, 05/07/2021 - 10:30am | By: David Tisdale

Storywalk at the Pocket Museum - May 22nd - 10 AM - 3 PMExercising body and mind through the joy of reading and a walk in historic downtown Hattiesburg will be the centerpieces of StoryWalk®, a unique concept combining physical activity and literacy, coming Saturday, May 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum, located in the alleyway next to Saenger Theater. This event is free and open to the public.  

StoryWalk® transforms the pages of a book into signs laid out on a trail inviting families, children, caregivers, teachers and others to follow the path of pages. Created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, the now internationally popular StoryWalk® Project was developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library; it has taken place in all 50 states and beyond, including in Germany, Canada, England, Bermuda, Russia, Malaysia, Pakistan and South Korea where projects have been installed. Many of these installations are permanent or semi-permanent. 

The featured book for Hattiesburg’s StoryWalk® will be Mouse Paint by author-illustrator Ellen Stoll Walsh, a joyful exploration of the world of color and creativity. Stacy Creel, an Associate Professor in The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), spearheaded the move to bring StoryWalk® to Hattiesburg through the support of a community collaboration.

“My family is a huge fan and regular attendees of local Hattiesburg attractions like the Hattiesburg Public Library, the Hattiesburg Zoo, and the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum,” Creel said. “As the School of Library and Information Science, we embrace books and the love of reading, so I was looking for a way to combine the things I love.”

“After contacting the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum to see about doing an event, I started looking for community partners. Since the USM Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, the Library of Hattiesburg Petal and Forrest County, and USM Council on Community Literacy and Reading all share the same ideals and love about reading, they made perfect partners.”

Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which created and oversees the operation of the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum said this about hosting StoryWalk®: “The Hattiesburg Pocket Museum is about discovery and curiosity. What better way to continue our connection with kids of all ages than to focus on the powerful impact of reading to build a lifetime of curiosity and desire for discovery.”

The May 22 production of StoryWalk® will feature the oversized book, suggestions for physical activities, the text translated into Spanish, QR codes linking them to Summer Reading books at the public library, and suggested reads will be added in displays to the surrounding area of the event.

“We went with oversized books to help with social distancing (per recommended Covid-19 guidelines),” Creel noted. “The pages (text and illustrations) of the book itself remain intact, just separated. The pages are then mounted on stakes where they are spread out in order around the project area. Kids and families move from station to station around the alley, reading the book and taking part in activities.

“We hope our installation will eventually also be hosted at various locations across town for several weeks at a time, like at the zoo, the food bank, and parks.”

While Mouse Paint is geared toward young kids aged birth to five years, Creel said the event also includes some activities that older kids will enjoy, including the opportunity to make an ‘I spy tube’ and then play a game of ‘I Spy’ around the alley.

The first 200 children arriving for the Hattiesburg StoryWalk® will be eligible to receive a free, brand-new book for their reading pleasure from the USM Council on Community Literacy and Reading, and participants will receive information about the Summer Reading Program at the Library of Hattiesburg Petal and Forrest County.  

“We hope kids and their families leave from StoryWalk® excited about books and sign up for the Summer Reading Program at public libraries in their communities, as well as enjoying the creative environment of the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum,” Creel said.

For more information about StoryWalk® at the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum, contact Creel at Stacy.CreelFREEMississippi or 601.266.5704.