ETSU Health partners with GELF, Ballad Health to launch Storybook Trail

Published 2:50 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Families can now enjoy a new Storybook Trail on ETSU Health’s Johnson City clinic campus. The trail is an outdoor reading experience where families can interact through literacy and physical activity.

ETSU Health partnered with the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation and Ballad Health’s Department of Population Health to develop the trail. GELF’s Storybook Trail program presents a children’s storybook on child-height panels along a short trail with featured reading tips to promote adult-child interaction around books and nature.

The Storybook Trail on ETSU Health’s Johnson City clinic campus brings to visitors the children’s book, “A Rainy Day Adventure” by Dr. Laurie Bennie and Cathy Jo McMaken and published by East Tennessee State University and Dr. Karen Schetzina in 2014.

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Engaging artwork and illustrations by ETSU BMC Creative’s Jill Fair and Robin Fisher reveal the adventures of three friends, Squirrel, Owl and Raccoon. When the electricity goes out due to a storm, they can no longer watch TV. Instead, they use their imaginations for creative indoor and outdoor play.

“We are thankful for the support provided by grants from GELF and Ballad Health’s Department of Population Health awarded to the ETSU Department of Pediatrics,” said Dr. Schetzina, Vice Chair of Academic Pediatrics for ETSU’s Department of Pediatrics and Director of the Child and Family Health Institute. “Our ETSU Health providers look forward to inviting our patients, their families, and members of the community to walk the trail while reading this book together. Spending time together, reading and playing outdoors in the fresh air is just what the doctor ordered!”

Located near ETSU Health Cardiology and Rheumatology, at 329 North State of Franklin Road, the Storybook Trail is accessible to the public daily from dawn to dusk.

“Mastering reading is a cornerstone skill for children, pivotal for navigating our literacy-driven world. A lack of proficiency in this area can echo through generations, placing children at a profound disadvantage,” stated Dr. Paula Masters, Ballad Health’s Chief Health Disparities Officer. “This is why the storybook trail, as a Ballad Health Community Health Improvement Site, is more than just a path—it’s a commitment to uplift our entire community. In collaboration with ETSU Health and the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation, we’re dedicated to transforming reading into a dynamic family experience, fostering a legacy of literacy that promises a more vibrant future for our region.”

In July 2018, GELF partnered with the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy to launch the Storybook Trail program. With that inspiration, GELF has been able to expand the program across the state, in partnership with parks at all levels.

“Our mission is to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee by equipping children with books and innovative literacy tools that encourage lifelong learning,” said James Pond, President of GELF. “The Storybook Trail program creates an enriching learning experience that combines literacy and physical fitness by connecting books with the beautiful landscapes of Tennessee. Thank you to our community partners for helping expand the program across the state. Get outside, and get reading!”