Storybook walk promotes literacy, community engagement

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER The cover of “The Old Truck” is posted in a Main Street business window for the storybook walk. In all, 20 covers are posted across the downtown area.

For the second year in a row, the Storybook Walk is happening in Marshalltown, both to encourage reading and promote local businesses.

The two-week long event, starting on April 16, was organized by the Marshalltown Central Business District (MCBD) and the Marshalltown Public Library (MPL). Last year, it consisted of finding different storybook pages out of one book in various businesses labeled on a map, but this year, however, the approach changed.

Worksheets, available both on the MCBD website and at the library, list 20 different businesses and their addresses. Each store has a different book cover posted, and families have to visit each store and write down each book title on the worksheet before turning it into the library by May 2 to get a free book and a chance to win a grand prize.

MPL Youth Services Manager Joa LaVille said she was excited to partner with the MCBD for the storybook walk once again.

“We had fun picking the book covers. We tried to pick titles that sort of went with the business that it was placed in the window, and so maybe families are even getting a good idea of a new book to come in and check out,” LaVille said. “I think it gives families something to do together that’s on their schedule, and then obviously we like that it also brings them into the library, and so I just think it’s a win-win all the way around.”

The Storybook Walk also coincides with Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day). LaVille said prior to COVID-19, the MPL would host a large celebration of book day which would draw crowds of 500 people or more. This just wasn’t feasible during the pandemic, so the Storybook Walk offered an alternative.

“It was really good timing for us to be able to celebrate something in a way that didn’t make a big crowd at one spot, but also could celebrate reading and books and then also give out the free book that we usually did at Día de los Niños,” LaVille said.

MCBD Promotions Chair Alushia Fitzgerald was behind the original idea for the storybook walk in 2021, and she said it was and still is a great way to promote community engagement with the downtown area.

“All the businesses that participated last year were really excited to do it again, so it seemed like a no-brainer just to bring it back,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald thought the storybook walk seemed like an easy and quick promotion event because the only thing it required businesses to provide was a bit of window space. Foot traffic was up slightly while the 2021 storybook walk was happening, bringing more attention to downtown businesses, and Fitzgerald was hopeful the same would be true for the 2022 iteration.

“It’s one of those great things that it’s for a family activity, but business owners really enjoy having kids come around and do that. It was just something that luckily fell into place really well,” Fitzgerald said.

While the weather hasn’t been the best for an outdoor activity like the storybook walk in the last several weeks, LaVille said families have still been coming in with their kids to claim their free book.

On top of that, once the worksheet is completed, kids receive a slip to enter in a raffle to win one of the grand prizes, which include items like Lego sets, a Pie Face game and a Funko Pop Hawkeye figure, among others. Community members donated all of them.

Worksheets are due at the library May 2. Printable worksheets can be found at https://www.marshalltownmainstreet.org/storybook-walk.html, or hard copies can be found at the library.


Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or



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