Girl Scout Isabela Allen Unveils “Story Stroll” at Jerseyland Park

(above) Isabela Allen recently unveiled the Story Stroll, her literacy-based Girl Scout Gold Award project.

Girl Scout Unveils “Story Stroll” at Jerseyland Park

Submitted by Krystyna Monczka

Isabela Allen of Troop #40302 hosted the Grand Opening of the “Story Stroll,” her Girl Scout Gold Award project, at Jerseyland Park in Scotch Plains on a recent Friday afternoon. Mayor Al Smith was in attendance to cut the ceremonial red ribbon and to officially open the “Story Stroll,” which is designed to promote early childhood literacy. Also present at the Grand Opening were: the Scotch Plains Deputy Township Manager and members of the Town Council; the Director and the Head of Youth Services from the Scotch Plains Public Library; the Director of the Scotch Plains Parks and Recreation Department and members of the Parks and Recreation Commission; members of the Union Catholic High School community; family and friends.

The “Story Stroll” is a series of sixteen signs containing the pages of a children’s picture book mounted on posts along the path in Jerseyland Park. The goal is for children to practice reading and enhance their literacy skills as they stroll the path together with their caregivers. Currently, the picture book on display is “Fox Makes Friends” by Adam Relf, with plans for the book to be changed periodically. All are invited to come to Jerseyland Park in Scotch Plains to experience the “Story Stroll” for themselves.

Allen, a senior at Union Catholic High School and a Scotch Plains resident, collaborated with the Scotch Plains Public Library and the Parks and Recreation Department to create the “Story Stroll.” The project was a year and a half in the making and included researching early childhood literacy, designing the signs, raising funds through the sale of handmade bookmarks featuring quotes from famous authors, learning basic woodworking skills, and finally building and installing the signs in the park.

The “Story Stroll” helps promote early childhood literacy in a variety of ways. Research shows that exposure to books from infancy through the first years of life is crucial to a child’s development of language, reading and writing skills. The pleasant experience of walking and reading together with caregivers in the park helps children form positive associations with books, igniting a lifelong love of reading, as well as strengthening bonds between children and guardians. In addition, the “Story Stroll” is a learning activity that is self-directed and experiential, which has been shown to develop executive function skills linked to a child’s success in school and beyond.

It is Allen’s aspiration that the “Story Stroll” will be a positive impact in the Scotch Plains community and beyond. “I hope that my project will inspire the young children who visit the park to have a lifelong love of reading,’’ said Allen. “I really love to read, and I want to share the incredible joy and magic of reading with children. If my project can make a real, positive difference in the lives of the children who visit it, I will be absolutely thrilled. I hope they come back again and again to read new stories as the librarians swap out the books in the Story Stroll, and that they enjoy it and learn from it each time.’’

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