Lemire Helps Bring StoryWalk to Downtown Branford
On Friday, June 19, the third annual StoryWalk along Main Street launched in Branford. For the next nine weeks, Carly Lemire is hoping those who follow the picture book story, My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood, will also be inspired to embrace the message it shares.
“We really try to have a universal message each year,” says Carly, who has served as James Blackstone Memorial Library associate librarian for youth services since 2010.
“My Two Blankets is an immigration story which I think all ages can pull something from, especially at this time,” she says. “It’s about a young girl who moves to a new country and can’t speak the language, and how a young girl befriends her, and how they become friends despite this language barrier. That’s the metaphor of the two blankets—one blanket is her home country, and this new blanket is the one she’s creating in her new country.”
This year’s StoryWalk continues through Friday, Aug. 21, and involves 15 participating businesses. Each is displaying one 18” x 24” story page panel in their front window. Each panel includes an illustrated page from the book and a thought-provoking question as a takeaway for those who stop to view it.
“We wanted the questions to be a bit on a younger level so that everyone can participate,” says Carly. “So you could talk to a five-year-old about making new friends and what does that mean, and how do we reach out to people that maybe don’t necessarily look like you, or speak the same language as you?”
She adds that, no matter your age, this beautiful story can provoke important questions for readers, just a few of which could be “Have I ever felt the way that character’s felt before?” “When did that happen in my life?” and “If I had that happen, when did someone make me feel welcome?”
“It might not happen at every stop, but hopefully, you make those connections,” says Carly.
Before taking on this year’s StoryWalk, Carly highly recommends families download the story map at www.blackstone.lioninc.org. It points the way for readers to follow the story page by page at each successive business, and also shares all of the questions.
“It’s kind of like a little scavenger hunt, too, because kids can use the map to help figure out where that next stop will be, which is fun,” says Carly.
Participating 2020 StoryWalk businesses are Myer’s Flower Shop, Ashley’s Ice Cream, P.S. Fine Stationers, Salon Refuge, Sweets on Main, Gather, Fired Up!, Possessions, SoundRunner, Pinky Nail & Spa, Salon Epic, Home Restaurant, Polished Boutique, Better Ways LLC, Breakfast Connection and Village Express.
Bringing StoryWalk to Downtown
Carly brought the downtown StoryWalk concept to Branford together with Mary Lockery, who provides children’s reading activities at the library.
“We went a library conference and one of the talks was about storywalks. But they’re traditionally done outside in parks or on trails,” says Carly. “We loved the idea of bringing the community together, walking, talking and having significant discussions for all ages, but we’re right on Main Street.”
Without a nearby trail in sight, “we realized the only way we’d be able to do this was to get the involvement of the merchants downtown, so that as people were looking in their windows to see what they have to offer, they would see the story,” says Carly.
That developed the idea for the first StoryWalk, and downtown merchants quickly embraced it as an annual summer event.
“It’s become a great way for us to help each other out,” says Carly. “Especially now, because many of the stores have been closed for so long,” due to COVID-19 restrictions. “So we really, really hope people will read the book this year, but also take a peek into some of these awesome stores we have.”
It’s also a way for people who are looking to get out and about with their kids to safely re-connect with a beloved library program, even though the Blackstone Library remains closed to the public as a COVID-19 precaution. As of press time, the library’s latest plan was to begin to have computers available, by appointment, as of July 1. As of now, librarians and staff are in the building during regular hours to answer phones to assist the public and make “contactless pick-up” arrangements for patrons (find more information at www.blackstone.lioninc.org).
As it has throughout the pandemic, the library also continues to be available to assist the community by offering resources, virtual programs, and online services.
For the youth services area, that’s included everything from sharing links to educational online games to livestreaming story time and activities with “Miss Mary” and “Miss Carly,” and teen programming offered by Teen Services Librarian Sarah Mallory.
It’s also included setting up this year’s virtual summer reading quest, “Imagine Your Story,” which also launched last week. Every completed weekly challenge earns a prize ticket entry. New this year, completing the StoryWalk will be part of the library’s summer reading quest, Carly notes.
“The summer reading quest is a 10-week reading challenge for all ages. When you sign up, each week you’ll get an email prompting a different challenge,” she explains.
This week’s challenge, for example, is to read a book from a genre that you’ve never read before.
“And when you complete a challenge, we’ll send out a prize form, so you can be put in to be [randomly] selected to receive a prize donated, once again, by our businesses,” says Carly. “So we’re going back to our businesses for support, and we’re hoping to help support them, because that’s their livelihood. These are our businesses, and this is our town.”
Blackstone’s Summer Reading Quest and StoryWalk are made possible by Guilford Savings Bank and Friends of the Blackstone Library.