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A reading station is located along Stream Bottom Trail at Swiss Valley Nature Center just outside of Dubuque. The stations are part of a “story walk” that allows visitors to read picture book stories while outside.

With warmer weather just around the corner and cabin fever likely reaching an all-time high due to COVID-19 restrictions, parents and children will be treated to yet another reason to get outside and enjoy the fresh air together as the James Kennedy Public Library (JKPL) will be building something special along a piece of Dyersville’s trail system.

Shirley Vonderhaar, JKPL director, recently announced that city staff will be creating a “story walk” along the trails of West Side Park that will help to promote reading while also providing an activity that is COVID-friendly.

As the name implies, every 40 to 50 paces there will be a display featuring one or two over-sized pages from 30-35 page picture books, giving children the opportunity to read-and-run, exercising both the body and mind.

The project is being facilitated through a $2,000 grant from the Dubuque Racing Association that was recently awarded to the Friends of JKPL. The Friends are also providing a $3,000 match to the grant and the remainder of the costs will be funded in memory of Richard Osterhaus.

The grant facilitates the purchase of heavy-duty, lockable displays constructed from plexiglass and steel which will allow them to be permanent fixtures. The story will be changed once a month while the weather is favorable, but in the winter, they will likely only be changed once or twice.

While the reading infrastructure will be new, the concept is already something that has been promoted by JKPL in the past.

“We did (a story walk) during the Halloween season and another in January using the downtown’s business windows,” Vonderhaar said. “So, we will probably continue to do a little bit of that as well as long as (businesses) are will to work with us, but this will be permanent.”

The current hope is to install the posts in March/April when the ground is suitable and the displays are received from Iowa Prison Industries.