At ‘story walks,’ students experience books in a different way


In the North Merrick Union Free School District, there’s more than one way for students to read a book.

At each of the district’s three elementary schools — Old Mill Road, Camp Avenue and Harold D. Fayette — the district’s library media team created a “story walk,” taking pages from a simple picture book and expanding them so they can be spread across large poster boards in an outdoor setting. The poster boards are arranged in the order of the book’s pages so students, with their classes or their families, can walk through a story instead of just sitting down and reading one.

Joanne Constantino, the district’s lead library teacher, who heads classes at Old Mill Road and Fayette, told the Herald that before the students started participating in the story walks, the library wanted to hear from them about why they thought the walks could be useful.

“Our first lesson, we brainstormed why is this beneficial?” Constantino recounted. “And most of the kids had said to get fresh air — to get exercise.”

The story walks, which are set up in the backyards of each school, opened on June 1, and will remain set up through June 23. Last Friday, the Herald observed as fourth-graders at Old Mill Road made their way along the display during their library period. The students gathered around the poster boards and read the stories together.

Constantino added that at each school, the walks have been utilized by every grade level. The reactions of the kids, she said, have been positive thus far.

“Honestly, when we first got them out here,” she said, “the walk itself took the whole 40 minutes.”

Although the purpose of the walk was really to encourage a different type of reading, small lessons and activities have been incorporated into it — all of which were taking place outdoors.

“Different grades are doing different kinds of activities,” Constantino added. “The sixth grade is doing a memory from kindergarten through sixth grade, and we’re putting them on a key ring, and that’s going to be their keepsake.”

In addition to utilizing the walks during school, since they are located in the school yards, students have also been using them before and after school.

“It’s to spend time with their family,” said Dawn Abenante, the library clerk at Old Mill Road.

Constantino noted that a small contest was being run in conjunction with all three story walks, and that the first 15 families to email her a family photo while there would receive a prize for participating.

“That’s why we’ve had it up from the 1st,” she said. “They can come at arrival or dismissal with their families. When the first 15 families in the district send me a picture, they get a free book.”

Each school’s walk features a different book — “Memory Jars” at Old Mill, “Last Day Blues” at Camp Avenue, and “The Wonderful Happens” at Fayette. This was done to encourage families to stop by more than one, or even all three. 

“They’ve loved it,” Constantino said of her students. “It gets them to see a whole different way of reading a book.”