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Read through the woods: Storybook Trail promotes literacy and nature

The Storybook Trail of the Smokies will wind against a backdrop of peaceful forest and rushing waterways. NPS photos The Storybook Trail of the Smokies will wind against a backdrop of peaceful forest and rushing waterways. NPS photos

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park hopes to help visitors experience the Smokies story in a new way thanks to a partnership with the University of Tennessee Extension Institute of Agriculture and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

The Storybook Trail of the Smokies, an initiative to promote literacy in nature, will be open to visitors from April 3 to May 30. As they walk the 1-mile Cosby Nature Trail near Cosby Campground, visitors will read a Smokies-themed book via trailside activities and on-the-trail story pages displayed for them to read along the way. 

“We are excited to have this opportunity to offer a new, immersive approach for young readers to experience the stories of the Smokies in a way that brings them to life on the trail,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.

Every two weeks during the eight-week period, a new book will appear along the nature trail, and two more books are planned for the fall. Educational prompts to encourage interaction with the trail will accompany each book, and books will aim to reach a variety of reading levels. Teachers and homeschool groups are invited to use the storybook trail and its corresponding standards-based activities for classroom or virtual learning opportunities. 

“Through this partnership we are excited to provide an opportunity for families, teachers and students to explore, learn and meet their curricular goals while having fun in our national park,” said Jessica Gardner, UT-TSU Extension-Cocke County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent. “It is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy nature, get some exercise, enjoy a story written by our talented local authors and learn something new.” 

 The spring book lineup includes We’re Going to the Mountains by Steve Kemp, April 3-16; The Salamander Ball by Lisa Horstman, April 17-30; Singing Creek by Morgan Simmons, May 1-14; and The Troublesome Cub by Lisa Horstman, May 15-30. On the first Saturday of each book’s rotation, the author will visit the trailhead to interact with participants. 

 Storybook Trail of the Smokies is funded through a Juanita H. Fasola Foundation Inc. grant secured by the UT Extension Office. The four books scheduled for this spring are published by Great Smoky Mountains Association and can be purchased at www.smokiesinformation.org. Follow the Storybook Trail of the Smokies Facebook page for more information on the books, author events and activities to accompany each book.

The Storybook Trail is free and accessible seven days a week.  

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