Officials cut ribbon on A Storybook Trail at Civic Park

A series of characters attended the StoryBook Trail opening at Civic Park.

A StoryBook Trail, an enriching outdoor reading experience for children and families opened on Saturday in conjunction with the Morristown Parks and Recreation From the Pages to the Park at Civic Park in Morristown.

The opening featured a ribbon cutting, vendors, book characters and an introductory reading of “When the Storm Comes.”

“This is our fifth year doing this event and each year continues to grow in super heroes, Disney princesses and childhood characters. Our first year, we started with about 10 characters and now we’re up to almost 20,” said Jennifer Gentry, Program Coordinator for the Morristown Parks and Recreation Department.

Storybook Trails connect literacy with a fun, physical activity by presenting a children’s storybook on child-height panels along a short trail to promote adult-child interaction around books and nature.

Each panel features a reading tip to encourage family engagement by bringing the book to life for children.

The Morristown Civic Park Storybook Trail features two Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library books, each for six months of the year; “When the Storm Comes” by Linda Ashman and “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats.

“Children can come and walk with their parents,” Kim Smith, a social worker at the Hamblen County Health Department said. “They can walk, which is healthy, they can read each panel, have their parents read each panel to them and the children that are learning to read can read to their parents. That means a lot.”

The From Pages to the Park event featured characters from children’s favorite storybooks and comic books jumping from the pages of the books to walk around and greet children in the park.

“This means a lot because I feel like education is extremely important,” said Megan Miceli dressed as the Scarlett Witch. “Not as many people read as much as they used to. Technology is coming forward and advancing so quickly and no one is just pulling out a good book and reading the words in front of them.”

In late 2020, the Morristown Hamblen Ready By 6 Council, which strives to prepare children for school by the age of six years old, received an opportunity to apply for a Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF), Storybook Trail Grant.

The Ready By 6 Council coordinator reached out to Morristown Parks and Recreation Department to see if they would be willing to partner and place a Storybook Trail in one of the community’s parks.

“We have an elaborate park system and for the last eight years we have tried to make our parks diverse in what they have to offer,” said Gary Chesney, City Mayor of Morristown.

The grant was approved for $4,000 by GELF and an agreement was signed by both parties. An additional $5,000 was raised through donations and in-kind contributions including A Little Free Library, donated by the Morristown Housing Authority.

“A Little Free Library is a wonderful addition. Children can come and get free books and they can either bring them back or not,” Smith said. “A lot of children in Hamblen County may not have that opportunity and this is all free.”

Denise Mendez, an event goer and mother of Lucas Mendez, an avid reader at only eight years old, said the location is very important.

“Where the government housing is where these children are less fortunate and may not have an opportunity to obtain books,” she said.

Lucas has been reading since the age of three and enjoys reading a series called “I Survived.” formerly enjoying books like Pete the Cat which, according to Lucas, is about “a little cat that goes on adventures.”

Committee Members, donors and in-kind donors include representatives of: Ready By 6 Council, Morristown Parks and Recreation, Rotary Club of Morristown AM, Colortech, Inc., Morristown Housing Authority, Hamblen County Board of Education, Morristown Hamblen Library, Morristown Imagination Library Council, HOLA, Hamblen County Health Department and various members of the overall community.

The Hamblen County Career and Technical Education Culinary Arts classes prepared 500 individually wrapped cookies for the Storybook Trail Dedication and the Teaching as a Professional students were on site to hand out the cookies to attendees.

The Teaching as a Professional program of study provides students with an introduction to careers in education.

Arts Builds Skills was also present, with a napkin bookmaking activity for the children.

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