Teacher Tuesday

I “met” Jannie Des Rosiers-Berman when she wrote a very sweet and complimentary email about my book, The Friendship Doll. We immediately found several connections, including discovering we’re both from the northwest.

Jannie is a teacher librarian in the small town of Portland, Connecticut, working at two schools: one is an elementary (grades three/four) and one is an intermediate school (grades five/six.) Portland is known for its brownstone quarries and shipbuilding past. Jannie uses “manipulatives” to entice her students to read. Before we learn more, let’s take a peek at her past:

  • Favorite school lunch: The “hot lunch” that my mother let me buy one a week. (I loved all of the choices!) The rest of the week I had bologna or tuna fish sandwiches on Wonder bread.
  • Best friend in school: Books were my best friends in grade school! However, in seventh grade I met Ronna Plowman, and we are still good friends!
  • Times you were the new kid: Only once – in fourth grade. We moved from Seattle to a prosperous suburb when my divorced mother remarried. The students were brutal about my lank hair, protruding teeth and pimples.  (Photo above shows how orthodontia, shampoo, and dermatology work wonders!)
  • Teacher who made you stretch: A teacher who made a huge impression on me was Mrs. Heiman, my social studies/language arts teacher in seventh grade. She was a strict, no-nonsense teacher who told me I needed to enunciate and speak more slowly. (I am great now at the enunciate part – but I still speak too quickly!) Mrs. Heiman had lived through World War II and was a widow with one son. She was there to teach us, not to be hip or popular. (Later when I became a widow with young children I felt like perhaps I better understood Mrs. Heiman. I gave my son the same name as her son…coincidence?)

Okay, Jannie. Let’s talk about connecting kids and books through. . .toys! How did this come to be part of your teaching process?
When I began working in a middle school library, I looked for “toys” I could put out with book displays. (These toys often included action figures, Beanie Babies, and Beanie kids.) The toys allowed students to play and relax a bit while they were in the library. I also hoped that students would notice the displays and check out more books!  When the middle school became an intermediate school, I added even more toys and other objects to displays. I turned part of my small desk into a mini toy and interesting objects museum. 

What have been some of your students’ favorite displays?

Students have enjoyed “playing” with Harry Potter figures and figures from The Lord of the Rings movies. Students love to visit my desk and see what I’ve picked up on my shopping trips. They love anything with water. Science museums are a great place to pick up toys.

Can you share a specific anecdote or two about a wonderful connection between a kid and a book display?  

I’ve attached a photograph of our display for The One and Only Ivan. The display has an elephant, cute small dog, gorilla, and a Polly Pocket doll. These came straight from my basement and are my children’s former toys. My students love to move the animals around and surprise the library staff with interesting tableaus. 

What kinds of outside resources, if any, do you employ (Skype, author websites, guest speakers) to further generate interest in books/reading?  

I have author visits and often students visit author websites and view book trailers.

Are there other resources you’ve found that might be helpful to other teachers/librarians wanting to use display items to perk up students’ interest in books?

Go shopping – and have fun! Don’t put out breakables, and don’t get upset if things disappear or break. We are still looking for items from five years ago! Kids are always asking me where I find all my “cool stuff.”
Thanks for sharing this sweet but easy-to-do idea with us, Jannie! I love this notion of creating “tableaus” to bri
ng books to life, especially when kids are allowed to add their own special touches. This reminds me of Tom Angleberger and all the origami creations kids send him, inspired by his Origami Yoda books; he posts them all on his blog. Using manipulatives, aka toys, is a great way to honor and celebrate the connections kids make with books!

No Responses to “Teacher Tuesday”

  1. Anonymous

    Jannie is a great reader and cracker-jack librarian! And beautiful inside and out. Thanks for sharing her with your readers.
    Written by a long-time friend from CT.

  2. Anonymous

    Talking to Jannie about her love of books and her relationship with ‘her kids’shows the world that there are very special teachers out there who love their work.

    A proud step-dad