Did you know that Sheboygan County’s number one attraction got a boost from the Wisconsin School of Business?
Sandra Livermore ’80, MS’82 remembers the exact moment when she was inspired to start Sheboygan’s Bookworm Gardens, a 3.5-acre botanical garden based on children’s literature.
The owner of a landscape-design business was visiting a small children’s garden in Michigan when a group of teens walked in and started reading aloud. Suddenly young kids appeared out of nowhere and sat down to listen.
“It was one of the most powerful moments of my life,” Livermore says. “It’s like someone whacked me on the side of the head with a frying pan, and I said, ‘We’re going to do this.’ ”
That was in 1999. Eleven years later, thanks to Livermore’s persistence and the work of more than 1,000 volunteers, Bookworm Gardens opened. “I’m thankful to the UW business school,” she says, “for giving me the confidence to believe that we could make this dream a reality!”
“I’m thankful to the UW business school for giving me the confidence to believe that we could make this dream a reality!”
The nonprofit attraction, which has no admission fee and is supported by donations, encourages visitors to choose one of 70 available books and head to an interactive garden based on the title. Fans of Charlotte’s Web can visit a barn with sculptures of the beloved spider, her web, and the pig Wilbur. Visitors who choose Harry the Dirty Dog encounter a statue of a dog and a pail of water. “Kids stand in line to give Harry a bath,” says Livermore.
Bookworm hosted more than 80,000 visitors in 2017, including 5,600 children on field trips. The site is TripAdvisor’s number one destination in Sheboygan County.
When Livermore first envisioned the gardens, she hoped they would “get kids and their families outside reading and experiencing nature together.” Now that technology has become so ubiquitous, she says, there is an even greater need to coax children away from their screens.
“There’s just a lot of joy here,” she says. “That’s my favorite word for this place: joyful.”