Storybook Trail Combines Reading, Nature, and Exercise - U of I Extension

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Storybook Trail Combines Reading, Nature, and Exercise

Storybook Trail Combines Reading, Nature, and Exercise

Imagine you are taking a walk along a nature trail, and you come upon a page from a children’s book, laminated and mounted on a stake.  As you continue to walk you discover another page, then another, and you soon realize you are reading a story. Welcome to the Storybook Trail!

The Storybook Trail at the Rock Falls recreation path in Whiteside County was a collaboration with the Rock Falls Trail Committee, Boy Scout Troop 902, and University of Illinois Extension.   This October, the Storybook Trail celebrates one year of success.  Elementary schools have traveled to the trail all year long to discover and read new books that have been posted.  Teacher and parent resources for the stories are located on the Extension website at

At the ribbon cutting ceremony last October, third grade students from Lincoln Elementary in Sterling walked their way through the pages of Plant a Pocket of Prairie. Five stations of Extension Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners led activities related to the story theme. Students learned about the life cycle of a monarch butterfly, the length of prairie plants roots, and how Native Americans used bison.  In spring,  on Earth Day, students enjoyed reading about the antics of an earthworm in Diary of a Worm. This fall, The Cloud Book introduces common types of clouds, the myths that have inspired their shapes, and what clouds tell us about weather. An evaluation page has been added for teachers to comment and make recommendations.

Studies show that when children spend time outdoors, they reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, concentration and performance at school improves, and they gain an appreciation and love of nature.  Author Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book Last Child in the Woods to describe the effect of children and youth becoming disconnected from nature. Adults can suffer from nature deficit disorder, prior generations generally spent more time outside as children than kids do today. Research links nature deficit with some disturbing child outcomes, such as increased rates of obesity, attention disorders, and depression, as well as diminished use of one’s senses. We can reverse nature deficit disorder in ourselves and our children if we work on getting kids outside with  activities like the Storybook Trail.

The Storybook Trail has been so successful in Rock Falls that other communities are looking at how they too can start a trail system with storybooks. If you are interested in how to start a storybook trail contact Mary Nelson, Whiteside County Program Coordinator at 815-632-3611.


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