UM’s ‘Book Talk’ Brings Characters to Life to Promote Reading

Kathy Dean News

MOBILE, Ala. – Pippi Longstocking had a problem, and Mother Goose called upon her friends from children’s literature to help Pippi solve it, during the semi-annual “Book Talk” presented by students, faculty and staff from the University of Mobile School of Education.

The colorful cast of characters ranged from the Big Bad Wolf, played by UM President Lonnie Burnett, to the Once-ler, played by elementary education major Brandy Segreto. Students, faculty and university administrators dressed the part of book characters as they took turns on stage with Pippi Longstocking, played by Associate Professor of Education Karen Dennis, and Assistant Professor of Education Brenda Chastain as Mother Goose.

Pippi’s problem? She didn’t want to go to school. The Grinch, Corduroy, young Amelia Bedelia and more dropped by to share with Pippi the problems they faced in their own stories. They left their books with Pippi, so she could read their stories and find out how each solved their problem.

“Book Talks began as an assignment for early childhood and elementary education majors in methods classes, to introduce a strategy that could be used to engage elementary school students in discovering the joy of reading. The university’s Literacy Council came on board, too, with a goal to raise funds to provide a collection of books presented in our Book Talk to the schools in which we perform each semester,” said Dennis.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the School of Education taped the Book Talk presentation in Dorsett Auditorium to distribute to schools such as Chickasaw Elementary and Bright Beginnings Academy. Previously, costumed participants shared their stories in person at a school assembly at various schools.

Dennis said, “Our hope is that the students who watch these book characters come alive are enticed to go find that book to discover for themselves how that character solved their particular dilemma. If even one student does that, then it was worth our time.”

The University of Mobile School of Education provides a wide range of experiential learning opportunities for students. The curriculum includes over two years of real-world experience in local schools. The Christian university offers small class sizes with mentoring from professors who have extensive backgrounds as educators and school administrators.

For more information about Book Talk, contact Dennis at To learn more about the School of Education, visit or call Enrollment Services at 251.442.2222.

Books, characters portrayed and the students, faculty and administrators who participated in Book Talk include:

Mother Goose, Brenda Chastain; Pippi Longstocking, Dr. Karen Dennis; “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?,” Dr. Todd Greer; “Miss Nelson is Missing,” Dr. Cindy Erickson, Briely Teague, Will Spears and Emma McCrory; “Fancy Nancy,” Bri Huber; UM President Dr. Lonnie Burnett as Alexander T. Wolf and Dr. Ashley Milner as Piggie from “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs;”

“Junie B. Jones – 1st Grader,” Dynasty Wittner; “Tiana Is My Babysitter,” Lexus Peppers; Young Amelia Bedelia book series, Lydia Diegel; “Alice in Wonderland,” Ashlynn Henderson; “The Grouchy Ladybug,” Valerie Dickson; “If You Give a Mouse a Brownie,” Chelsea Evans; “Corduroy,” Erin Williams;

“After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again,” Dr. Mel Sansom; “What Would Darla Do?,” Lesa Moore; “The Lorax,” Brandy Segreto; “The Sneetches,” Claire Taylor; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Kayla Wood; “What Do You Do With a Problem?,” Dr. Debra Chancey, dean of the School of Education.

About the University of Mobile

The University of Mobile is a Christ-centered liberal arts and sciences institution with a vision of higher education for a higher purpose, founded to honor God by equipping students for their future professions through rigorous academic preparation and spiritual transformation. Core values are: Christ-Centered, Academically-Focused, Student-Devoted and Distinctively-Driven. The university offers on-campus and online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in over 75 academic programs. Founded in 1961, the University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres.

For more information about the University of Mobile, visit the website at or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is associate vice president for university communications and has helped tell the University of Mobile story since 1993. She is an award-winning public relations professional and former journalist. Her husband and daughter are UM graduates. She loves playing in the yard – planting flowers, picking blueberries, pulling weeds and petting her two mini-schnauzers.