Just beyond the Clark County line, children and families can now venture through the woods and into a treasured outdoor literary experience.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has unveiled four new Storybook Trails to connect Ohio families with nature while encouraging reading, including one at John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs.
“We looked in all five regions of the state,” says Alyssa Yaple, director of special projects for ODNR. “John Bryan is a beautiful park with a beautiful wooded area.
“We look for things like parking, accessibility, amenities and the ability to put in a full loop. It’s a family-friendly area that met all of the requirements and is one of the more advanced Storybook Trails.”
The book – As an Oak Tree Grows by Brian Karas – was selected for the Storybook Trail because the environment of John Bryan State Park and the story matched well together.
Yaple said the goal of the Storybook Trail is to bring the story to life, to get kids moving and to make them look a little deeper at their surroundings.
Many features and components of trees on the John Bryan Storybook Trail were left intact, such as the cross section of a trunk so readers can count the rings and learn the age of tree and decaying tree trunks that serve as wildlife habitats.
“We could have just cleared them away, but it really just adds to the story,” Yaple says. “It makes it more exciting. There are also activities on each side of the signs that coincide with the story.”
Storybook Trails this year collaborated with the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, a statewide initiative led by Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The goal is to ensure children enter the classroom ready to succeed by providing a free book to registered children every month from birth through age 5.
“We went through this year’s books, and we looked for ones that had to do with nature,” DeWine says. “It gives families a chance to talk about nature and talk about reading at the same time, which I think is neat.”
Storybook Trails also recently opened at Dillon, Maumee Bay and Wingfoot state parks, in addition to a trail at Alum Creek that opened in 2019.
“Storybook Trail is free, family friendly and a way to have fun with your child,” Yaple says. “It promotes exercising your body and your mind. It’s important for us to promote a healthy, active lifestyle and also literacy. You don’t have to just sit and read a book. You can have a fun, outdoor interactive experience.”
Yaple says Ohio is one of a small number of states that does not charge to enter the state parks, and ODNR plans to add more trails in 2021 including a second one in southwest Ohio. The books featured in the Storybook Trails in Ohio will rotate between parks.
“I grew up just down the road from John Bryan, so I’ve spent a lot of time there, and I just thought it was the perfect place to put a trail,” DeWine says. “I’m excited to have one so close to home. I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s a half a mile, and it’s the perfect walk with children.”