Harrowgate Park in Kensington is no bigger than a city block, and its proximity to the Tioga stop on the Market-El Frankford line makes it a popular park to cut through for commuters. But these days, a new initiative is encouraging families to learn something new and stay awhile.
It’s called StoryWalk, and it’s a simple literacy-building program launched by volunteers this summer that allows visitors to read a story while on a walk through Harrowgate Park.
“Essentially, you take a book apart, laminate the pages, and post them along a path with wooden stakes,” explained Meghan Dondera, a librarian at the nearby Richmond Library. “So while you’re walking along the path, you can read a book.”
The Richmond Library and the volunteer group Friends of Harrowgate Park collaborated this summer to offer StoryWalk at the park in lieu of their regular Storytime program, which typically involved reading a story in the park followed by an arts and crafts activity. “The idea was budding that we could do something more,” said Beca Ludi, of Friends of Harrowgate Park. “Ms. Megan had a great idea that would allow us to do something that would accommodate social distancing and we wouldn’t have to do a typical storytime where kids are sitting in a circle.”
The two groups were inspired to collaborate after attending the 2020 Public Space Summit last February, where they learned about the opportunity to apply for a Neighborhood Collaboration Grant. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, they decided to pivot and apply for the Event & Programming Grant offered by Fairmount Park Conservancy. Through these grant funds and individual donations made by the local community, the Friends of Harrowgate Park and the Richmond Library were able to move forward with their StoryWalk Program.