A combination of fresh air, reading and a stroll (or hop, skip and jump) through the park. All the perfect ingredients for a fun, engaging and enriching activity with the kids.

This is StoryWalk, a collaboration between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and Read Charlotte, which debuted at Independence Park in September.

The concept is simple: A children’s book is displayed page-by-page on laminated posts along a paved walking path. To read the story, you follow the trail. And each sign offers Active Reading techniques to help improve vocabulary, language skills and reading comprehension.

Active Reading is a proven literacy-boosting method where children are read with, rather than to. Read Charlotte, a community initiative dedicated to uniting Charlotte children, families and educators to boost grade-level reading, offers free Active Reading workshops through the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

The inaugural StoryWalk book on display is Wolfie the Bunny, by Ame Dyckman. Younger kids will enjoy hearing you read the story as they bound between the signs. Beginner readers will enjoy the challenge of reading it themselves. And older kids, along with their younger peers, can engage with the Active Reading prompts that accompany each page. There’s a scavenger-hunt element that keeps the kids on their toes.

New StoryWalks will be added in November 2017 (it has been postponed due to weather) and March 2018. They’ll be placed in three central Charlotte parks with the goal of reaching families living in the community’s “book deserts.” The project is part of an effort by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to provide Active Reading training and literacy experiences to more than 2000 families over the course of 2018.

The hope is to increase the number of children in Mecklenburg County who are on track to read at grade level by the end of third grade from 39% to 80% by 2025. Reading proficiency has proven to be a predictor of success not just in school, but also in career and life.

StoryWalk is a novel and delightful way to enjoy reading as a family. As an adult who loves to read but also sometimes struggles to sit still, now I wish they’d make a StoryWalk for grown-ups!

Independence Park is located at 300 Hawthorne Lane, Charlotte, NC, 28204. The StoryWalk starts at the playground and winds its way along the walking path toward Hawthorne Lane away from town and ends back at the playground. Follow this park map.

Want to make a day of it? Pack Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses- Independence Park offers little shade, especially along the walking path- and water and snacks to keep everyone’s appetites at bay. There’s a playground, ping pong, basketball and volleyball to keep everyone busy for the day!

Photo Credit: Lauren Sawyers

This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.