Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine joined Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz to open two new Storybook Trails in Southwest Ohio state parks Sunday.
After an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, children and families walked with the governor and first lady on the new Storybook Trails at Rocky Fork State Park in Highland County and Cowan Lake State Park to mark the celebration.
The ODNR is offering more communities a path to encourage childhood literacy, a love of nature, and healthy living for families, through a partnership with the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
“There’s no better place to explore, learn and grow together than the great outdoors, and we’re excited to provide kids and their families with more opportunities for adventure,” Mike DeWine said. “I think this creates a great experience for everyone who strolls down a Storybook Trail in one of our great state parks.”
Four new Storybook Trails opened this week, which means 15 Storybook Trails are now spread throughout Ohio state parks. Each trail features a different book, which is revealed panel by panel on a half-mile trail in a beautiful nature setting.
“We know a child’s brain is 80 percent developed in the first three years, which is why reading at an early age is so very important,” said Fran DeWine. “We now have 45 percent of Ohio children under the age of 5 enrolled in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, getting free books every single month. Putting an Imagination Library Book on a park trail makes the learning experience even better.”
Rocky Fork State Park in Highland County offers hiking trails, natural wetlands, and a 2,080-acre lake for boating and fishing. The Storybook Trail here features “Birds of a Feather” by Sita Singh. On the child-sized panels lining this new trail, families can read about the story of a peacock who learns to use his strengths to help his friends weather a storm.
Cowan Lake State Park in Clinton County offers scenic trails and a peaceful lake for swimming, fishing, sailing and kayaking. At this Storybook Trail, families can read “Shh! Bears Sleeping” by David Martin. This story takes children on an adventure through the seasons in the eyes of a mama bear and her cubs.
“Storybook Trails promote both physical and mental development with Ohio’s most scenic areas as the backdrop,” said Mertz. “Adding Storybook Trails to some of our state parks gives Ohioans, and visitors, one more reason to get out and enjoy Ohio’s beauty.”
The governor and first lady encourage all Ohioans to explore the Storybook Trails at state parks and enroll children under the age of 5 in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library.
There are currently 321,565 Ohio children enrolled in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, which provides one free book every month to children enrolled in the program from birth to age 5. Any Ohio child in this age group is eligible to receive the books, which are paid for by the state and local county partners. If a parent or grandparent enrolls a child at birth, that child could receive all 60 books in the program. To learn more about the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library and how to participate, visit OhioImaginationLibrary.org.
ODNR will be installing more Storybook Trails through the summer.
Information for this story was provided by Avaerie Fitzgerald, press assistant, office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.