Books! What could be better???
Well maybe: books in National Parks!!!
Two of my very favorite things, combined together!
“In early June, I was walking a trail in Land’s End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, when I came upon a children’s book called The Fox Wish, by Kimiko Aman. Each page was a mounted panel, installed just a few feet away from the next, like storytime breadcrumbs.
It was a delightful book about a fox who steals a little girl’s jump rope, but it got me wondering: What’s a children’s book doing in the National Park?
Well, did you ever hear that opposites attract?
To find out more, I talk to Michele Gee, Chief of Education and Interpretation at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a Bay Area National Park. She tells me that last year, when the National Parks Service celebrated it’s centennial, they decided to really focus on a problem they’d been working on for years.
The National Parks reach out
“We have a certain population that loves their National Parks, visits regularly, but that doesn’t reflect the diversity of our nation or the diversity of the Bay Area,” says Gee. “Lower income or people of color aren’t being drawn to the National Parks and don’t have the access. They both don’t know about it, don’t know it exists, but also don’t necessarily feel welcome to come.”
So the Parks looked for a partner to help, one which shared their mission for inclusivity, education, and adventure. If they had a dating profile, it might be: Outdoorsy conservationist seeks warm extrovert with shared values. Because successful partnerships are based on having something in common, right?
“Park rangers are very much into the history and story and they love sharing what they know about the world,” says Christy Estrovitz, Director of Youth Services at the San Francisco Public Library. “That’s something that librarians and the library staff love to do as well!”
Estrovitz runs the Library’s Summer Stride program, which brings free programs like tinkering workshops and drag queen story hour to your local branch. Last summer, she and Michele Gee worked together to bring library patrons to the National Parks and and a love of nature into the libraries. Some of the programs included park trailheads about the different National Parks inside the library branches, wooden Reading Ranger badges awarded to participants who read for twenty hours, Park Ranger storytime, and free shuttles from library branches to National Parks, funded by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
Gee says the programs were designed to “bring the libraries to the park as much as the park was going to the libraries.” “