Reading Without Limits combines literacy with activity
A stroll in the park is now not merely a matter of exercise — it can also be an opportunity to improve literacy.
Through the program “Reading Without Limits” — launched by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’s Parent University, Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate and other organizations in November — a few parks and communities in the area now have brightly illustrated children’s books adorning the sidewalks.
Pages of the books are separated and spread onto several upright posts to form a “story walk,” so parents can read with their children as they walk along the path. Each child who finishes the walk and submits his or her information at the end will receive the story book in either English or Spanish for free at the end of the month.
The story walks are present in the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association, South Estes and Hargraves Community Centers in Chapel Hill, as well as at the Henry Anderson Park in Carrboro.
Carla Smith, the parent engagement specialist at Parent University, said she was inspired to start this program after attending an international parent’s education conference.
“We thought it would be a good way to get parents to get engaged with reading if we would put them in communities,” she said.
“Our goal is to increase literacy and to get families reading and moving.”
Besides improving literacy, the program also aims to encourage activity.
“I’m really excited about this program because it’s a great way for the schools to reach out into the communities where the students and parents live. It allows us to go work with them where they are,” said Graig Meyer, the director of the Blue Ribbons Mentor-Advocate.
“It’s interactive, it includes reading, walking and being out and about in your community,” he said. “It will also increase literacy because we’re building libraries in kids’s homes.”
The books, which are changed each month, were chosen with the recommendation of the Chapel Hill Public Library and tested out with an elementary school student.
“We took around 20 books the public library recommended. We sorted through it and gave the books to a young student, a little girl in the third grade. She read the books and told us what she liked,” Smith said. “Those books were what we decided to use for the year.”
Corrinia Goode, a junior at Chapel Hill High School, is one of the high school students involved with the program under the Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute. She helped set up the story walks and read to the children as they walked.
“The parents were excited when we first introduced the program because it got their kids reading out of the classroom,” she said. “It was something that occupied the kids’s time and it was a productive way to do that.”
She said her favorite part was reading to the kids and getting to see their reactions.
“It was a great experience to get to know the kids around my community while helping them to learn and be active,” she said.
The current book on the walks is “Grandma’s Gift” by Eric Vasquez, which will be on display through Jan. 20.