When Cheryl Gatzke heard about the success of a Burns Lake project to increase literacy, she knew it could be undertaken here.
So the Houston Link to Learning early years/family literacy worker reached out to Jackie Maurer, the early years worker at the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre, and the concept of story walks —sign boards telling a story that are spaced out along a walkway — took hold.
The first one coincided with Family Literacy Week at the end of January, there was one for Easter, one for Earth Day Week last week and more are planned right up until Christmas at various locations.
Gatzke said Family Literacy Week’s theme of ‘Let’s Be Active’ is a perfect one to use throughout the year.
“Our regular family drop in program has not been able to run because of Covid restrictions but we still have the desire to help meet those needs in our community. The outdoors is still available, and Houston Link to Learning is excited to have those opportunities to get creative and have fun,” she said.
“Another great thing about the story walk is that it is available to any one in the community to enjoy and is not just limited to families who attend our programs.”
“A story walk is an innovative and delightful way for children and adults to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time. Which truly makes it such an ideal fit for a literacy agency,” she said. “In these unusual times we are living in we know it is especially important for families in our communities to get outside and be active.”
Also signing on has been the just-opened A Rocha nature centre, an expansion of the Buck Creek CANFOR fish hatchery.
It hosted last week’s Earth Day story walk and Cindy Verbeek from the nature centre sees story walks having many functions.
“They would provide activities for locals and tourists alike and help people learn more about out town, the people, places and creatures that share it with us as well as promote literacy through reading in a fun interactive way,” she said.
There are 13 more story walks, each a week long, planned between now and Christmas with five of them to be located at the A Rocha nature centre, all highlighting a specific nature theme ranging from salmon fry to awareness of bears.
Houston Link to Learning and the friendship centre will host the others and those will take in events such as Indigenous Week, one highlight summer, one highlighting harvest time and one for Remembrance Day.
Those will be located at Jamie Baxter Park and/or the dike area.
Houston Link to Learning and the friendship centre had listed Steelhead Park as a potential location but that was turned down by council for now.
“The proposal for temporary signage was not identified as conducive to the desired aesthetics of Steelhead Park. Council has invited the proponent to submit plans for permanent signage which would be more amenable to the park,” said District of Houston chief executive office Gerald Pinchbeck.
The two organizations at first had a concept of permanent signboards spaced out along a walkway constructed so that different story themes could inserted and removed.
“At this point it is just in the infancy dream stage but we would love to see it turn into a reality long term,” said Gatzke of discussions with the Houston and District Chamber of Commerce, the District of Houston, Houston Link to Learning, the friendship centre and the A Rocha nature centre.
“There are many ideas of various locations that could be enhanced with a permanent story walk structure being placed,” added Verbeek in support of a permanent location.
Those wishing to learn more can contact Gatzke at 250 845- 2727 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Programming information is available through the Houston Family Resource Centre Facebook page as well as on Instagram.