NEWPORT—As you drive or walk through downtown Newport you may notice wooden story boards lining the sidewalk. These boards are part of the downtown StoryWalk that hopes to create a fun learning activity for families.

The StoryWalk is a project created by Unify Cocke County. Each box contains specific pages of a book that will be changed out monthly. Families can walk through downtown and visit local businesses while reading the book along the way. The StoryWalk begins at the Newport Plain Talk and ends at Stokely Memorial Library.

A ribbon cutting was held to celebrate the kick off of the StoryWalk and City of Newport Mayor Roland “Trey” Dykes and County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, read a joint proclamation to celebrate 100 days of summer reading.

Crystal Chambers, Community Engagement Coordinator with Unify, hopes the StoryWalk benefits families and businesses.

“I am excited to see what fun we as a community can have with the StoryWalk,” Chambers said. “Our hope is it will bring families together, highlight our downtown area, draw folks into the library, while also encouraging literacy and learning. For now, the story will be changed monthly, and we intend to have some engaging activities to go along with the story. Please spread the word and visit the StoryWalk!”

Multiple partners came together to make the StoryWalk possible. Save the Children is one of the primary organizations that provides support to Unify and its programs.

Michelle Smith, Save the Children Community Engagement Specialist for the state of Tennessee, praised the efforts of community members that helped make the project a reality.

“The downtown StoryWalk has been such a success for Unify Cocke County,” Smith said. “We are so grateful for our collaborative members who helped Crystal (Chambers) and myself with the planning and execution of these permanent structures in Newport.

“With the help of local partners, we were able to have each board sponsored locally, built locally, and installed locally. We look forward to future events tied around the StoryWalk.”

The Cocke County Health Department is another organization that partners with Unify for many of their activities.

Matthew McConaughey, Public Heath Educator with the department, said the StoryWalk promotes physical activity as well as learning.

“The walk was an innovative way to bring families together and promote the importance of both physical activity and early learning,” McConaughey said. “It’s an enjoyable experience and at a convenient location for families to enjoy.”

The eleven story boards were sponsored by businesses and members of the community. Sponsors include Monterrey Restaurant, Knowles Market, Attorney Jim McSween, Johnathan and Kristen Templin, the Kiwanis Club of Newport, Rural Medical, Newport Pediatrics, C-5, the Office of District Attorney Jimmy Dunn, Westmoreland Dentistry, and Rob and Crystal Chambers.

To find out more about the story walk and the different books you can see each month, go to Unify Cocke County on Facebook.

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