Joan Ramian loves books. They’re both a hobby and a job for the South Haven resident, as she works as a media clerk at Fegely Middle School. It’s a passion she hopes rubs off on the students who venture into Fegely’s library and media center.
Ramian believes that books play an important role in children’s development, an attitude she formed back in sixth grade after an outstanding English teacher spread their passion for reading to her. The teacher took her to spelling bees and other events to help foster an interest. Thanks to that role model, one of Ramian’s favorite aspects of the job is getting kids who do not like reading involved with the library and helping them understand its importance.
“To me, there’s nothing better than seeing a kid who does not like to read, find a book and come to you like, ‘Oh my gosh, this was the best book ever! Thanks! Let’s find another book!’” explained Ramian. “I’ve always felt reading is very important. I made my kids read; we always went to the library.”
Every student is different, and understanding them is key to getting them more involved with reading. This is where Ramian shines, as she described one instance where she persuaded an aspiring sports-star into learning the importance of reading.
“I told one student for instance that reading is everything,” she said. “He says he’s going to be basketball player for the Bulls. I said, ‘Okay, well you have to know how to read your contract! You have to find out if someone isn’t honest, where page one says you get your money but page 20 says he gets it all! You have to read!’"
Right now, Ramian is very involved in Fegely’s push to get every student a copy of the book Wonder. It’s a children’s novel about a boy with an extremely rare facial deformity called Treacher-Collins syndrome overcoming bullying through friendship, kindness and acceptance. Ramian and her co-worker have hosted rummage sales, organized school penny wars and contacted local companies to make sure they get the money needed for every student to own their own copy of Wonder.
“We think they’ll like it,” said Ramian. “It will show them compassion, kindness. It’s such a great book about showing kindness and not bullying someone because they’re different. Kids need to learn compassion and those kinds of qualities, so that’s why we chose that book.”
Though she works in Portage, Ramian made her home in South Haven. She attributes the town’s charm to its tightly knit community, which she says recalls a classic American ideal that makes it stand out in Northwest Indiana.
“Our neighborhood comes together,” said Ramian. “Everybody’s yard is decorated for Christmas, and we have the type of neighbors who I can go over the fence and say, ‘Hey, do you have a cup of sugar?’ like back in the day!”
It proved to be a great town to raise a big family. Over her almost 40-year marriage, she and her husband have raised three adult children and nine grandkids. Her friends describe her as “the most devoted grandma on the planet,” as she tries to make it to all her grandkids sporting events and other extra-curricular activities. She also shares a deep bond with her siblings and regularly joins them on scrap booking retreats and walks for causes like fighting heart disease.
“I have two sisters and two brothers, and all five of us are very close,” she said. “We still do birthdays together, we still do Christmas and Thanksgiving together. That was one of my mom’s big things she instilled in us; family is very important. She’d say that friends will come and go, but family will always be there.”
From helping kids learn to love reading, to hosting sleepovers for her grandkids, Ramian makes a difference in people’s lives every day. That’s why some have taken to calling her a “helper of all people.”