School Bulletin: Bringing stories to life

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee teacher is bringing books to life with her video series "Just Us and Books."

"It has become just something that I so love," Dannette Justus, of Siefert School, says.

Justus, who has been teaching for 30 years, put together her first read-aloud video at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. She says she wanted a way to welcome the students to the first day of school even though classes were virtual.

"I uploaded it to the teachers' Google classrooms, and I actually posted it on my Facebook page," Justus says. "That was it. That was going to be the end of it."

It was far from the end. After being prompted by friends and fellow teachers, Justus kept going. She has now created more than 70 "Just Us and Books" videos, and the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation has helped her expand to new settings.

"Unfortunately, our students don’t have the background knowledge or have never been to places that are literally just a few miles from their houses," Justus says. "I wanted to show those places to the kids and maybe get an inside view that they might not get to see."

Justus has read children's books in Fiserv Forum, where her beloved Bucks play, and at various businesses like Sherman Phoenix and Cranky Al's. She's even ventured outside of the Milwaukee area to read at Lambeau Field.

"The students have told me they love when I go out to the different locations," Justus says. "They love when I have my hair done in a certain way, or I'm wearing something special to connect with the story."

Making that connection is key. Justus says students will recall months later that she wore a silly hat or had her nails done to match an outfit in one of her videos. She says the attention to detail from students shows that the video series is making an impact on young readers.

Justus says she picks children's classics to read, like "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle. She's also shared the book that made her fall in love with reading -- "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein. Justus says she looks for books with characters who look like her students or stories that illustrate a piece of little-known history.

"It just makes my heart happy when they get excited about stories and reading and books," Justus says.

Justus say she does want to travel more this summer to produce new videos showing students different areas of the state, but she says she'll need sponsorship to make that happen. In the meantime, Justus says her nephew is helping her shoot and edit the videos in the Milwaukee area.

You can find all of the "Just Us and Read" videos HERE.

If you know a remarkable student, teacher or school making a difference in your community -- contact CBS 58 to be featured in the next School Bulletin.

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