speakers & PAneLISTS

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    Founder, Project Lit

    Jarred is a teacher, a speaker and writer, and the co-founder of Project Lit.

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    Author, Teacher, Advocate

    Cornelius Minor is a Brooklyn-based educator. He works with teachers, school leaders, and leaders of community-based organizations to support equitable literacy reform in cities (and sometimes villages) across the globe. His latest book, We Got This, explores how the work of creating more equitable school spaces is embedded in our everyday choices—specifically in the choice to really listen to kids. He has been featured in Education Week, Brooklyn Magazine, and Teaching Tolerance Magazine. 

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    Professor, NYU

    Susan B. Neuman is a specialist in early literacy development. In her role as the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Neuman established the Early Reading First program, developed the Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Program, and was responsible for all activities in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act. She has written more than 100 articles, and authored and edited eleven books.

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    Founder, Bernie's Book Bank

    Founder, Freadom USA

    A recovering Golf Professional with an Entomology Degree, Brian is an “Entrepreneur for Literacy”.

    In 2009, Brian founded Bernie’s Book Bank. Bernie’s Book Bank is a children’s book bank which serves more than 300,000 under-resourced Chicagoland children with 12 quality books per year from birth through 6th grade. The vision of Bernie’s Book Bank is to build an ultra-effective, efficient, sustainable and scalable children’s book bank model to be replicated in every major American city to assure all children have the ability to read their way to a better life. Brian remains an integral part of Bernie’s Book Bank in Chicagoland and will play a critical role in national replication efforts.

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    Karlos L. Marshall specializes in place-based strategies that revitalize urban neighborhoods in Children's Equity Zones. As the Co-Founder and President of The Conscious Connect, Inc., he has established a literary oasis in Southwest Ohio consisting of more than 110 access points across barbershops, beauty salons, little libraries, residential reading parks, and a book bike. He has received recognitions as a Library of Congress Best Practice Honoree, Forbes 30 Under 30, and the International Literacy Association 30 Under 30 to name a few.

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    Mike has consulted with schools, Native American tribes, and large-scale international groups to make engaging, low-cost books available in every home, and to educate families on the importance of reading. Mike deeply believes that all children have a right to experience the joy of reading, and that technology holds the key to book abundance for everyone.

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    Executive Director, Behind the Book

    Jo worked for 25 years in television production. She was an Associate Director and Script Supervisor on shows including Good Morning America, Kate and Allie, The Chris Rock Show, and Liberty! The American Revolution. For the last five years of her TV career, she also worked part-time as a school librarian, and for two years ran the visiting-author program in her school. This experience inspired her to leave her career in television to found Behind the Book.

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    Executive Director, BookSpring

    Emily  has over 30 years of experience in non-profit and education sectors, including leadership roles with Texans for the Arts, VSA Arts of Texas, and Zach Theatre.  A strong interest in social justice for access to knowledge for all and a deep passion for language and stories drives her work.  As a lifelong learner with an MFA and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, she loves poetry and likes to garden and space-watch with her family.

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    Associate Executive Director, Every Child a Reader

    Having worked at the CBC for over six years, Shaina’s focus is on creating, growing, and maintaining programs and partnerships that support the work of the CBC’s member publishers, increase awareness of children’s books, and address important topics affecting the industry at large. Her main responsibilities have been coordination of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program and of the national Children’s Book Week. Shaina received a BFA in Dance from UNC-Greensboro and had an exciting career in restaurant service and management.  She lives in Atlanta, GA and welcomed her first child, Theo, in January 2020. 

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    Founder & Executive Director, Book Harvest

    As Executive Director of Book Harvest, Ginger Young is involved with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and its Supporting Parent Success Initiative. She serves on the National Advisory Board of the international social enterprise First Book. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The Hill Learning Center, an organization committed to transforming students with learning differences into confident, independent learners. Ginger graduated from Harvard College in 1984 and received her MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1990. She is the mom of three avid readers.

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    Executive Director, Reach Incorporated

    Since its launch in 2009, Mark has been the Executive Director at Reach. His background in social work provided him with extensive experience in secure and community-based settings, working primarily with teens who face social and academic challenges. With a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, and master’s degrees in social work and education from the University of North Carolina and Harvard University, respectively, Mark’s efforts in the community have not gone unnoticed. Formerly the D.C. Social Worker of the Year, he has been recognized by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Aspen Institute. 

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    Darrin joined Bernie’s Book Bank as Chief Executive Officer in 2018 with more than 20 years of leadership experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sector. Prior to his time at Bernie’s Book Bank, Darrin served as Chief Operating Officer of the American Red Cross of Northern Illinois.  Darrin also spent ten years with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. At the YMCA, he served as Senior Director of Risk Management for seven years and was a Director of Operations for a branch for the previous three years.

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    Executive Director, Maryland Book Bank

    Mark holds a B.A. in Sociology and Economics from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.  He worked at Communities for People, where he was introduced to the nonprofit world as a shelter manager for their at-risk boys' residential program. ​Mark moved to Baltimore in 1996 and served as president and CEO of Barmon Marketing.  After 12 years of the corporate world, he joined Baltimore Reads as the director of their Book Bank program.​ In March 2014, Mark formed the Maryland Book Bank and acquired the book bank program from Baltimore Reads.  

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    Blue Manatee Literacy Project

    Amanda Kranias is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Blue Manatee Literacy Project. Before acquiring the Blue Manatee, Amanda worked as an Operations Strategy consultant for startups and non-profits, locally and nationally. She serves as an Advisor to Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub and is a member of Impact 100. She is a graduate of Miami University and holds a masters degree in Organizational Behavior and Development.

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    Larry, a veteran high school English teacher at Lindenwold High School, started BookSmiles in September 2017. Always an avid reader, he graduated from the University of Rochester with a BA in English and a day later received a commission as an officer in the US Navy. After his discharge, he became a Kinko's manager while completing his Masters in Teaching at The College of New Jersey. He has taught high school English for twenty years. His children are grown, and he lives in South Jersey with his wife and two cats.

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    As the multifaceted leader of United Through Reading, Sally serves as the chief guardian and spokesperson for UTR. Sally has a doctorate in educational leadership and management, a master’s degree in special education from the University of San Diego, and a BA in elementary education from Purdue University.  Sally is an Army spouse of more than 30 years and her son, an Army reservist, has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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    Executive Director, Children's Literacy Foundation

    Duncan founded the Children's Literacy Foundation in 1998. Since then, CLiF has served more than 300,000 low-income, at-risk, and rural young readers and writers through inspiring literacy presentations, and given away more than $8 million in new, high-quality children's books to those kids who need them the most. Duncan has an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College, and worked for seven years as a management consultant in Boston. He has also been a freelance writer, teacher, and radio commentator, and is active in local political and environmental campaigns. 

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    Blue Manatee Literacy Project

    Along with being Board President of the Blue Manatee Literacy Project, Kevin has more than two decades of experience in the energy technology and utility space. Currently, Kevin is the CEO of Cincinnati based Electrada, a company looking to build the region’s highest-performance, community-focused EV charging network. Previously, he served as President of Integral Analytics, a data analytics company. In addition to co-founding BMLP, he also volunteers his time to tutor young students, serves on numerous boards and mentors startup founders, specifically social impact entrepreneurs.

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    Professor, Board Member

    Dr. Kenneth Kunz is an Assistant Professor of Literacy and Language Arts in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at Monmouth University.

    In 2007, Dr. Kunz received recognition as an outstanding teacher through the New Jersey Governor’s Teacher Recognition Program. In 2014, Dr. Kunz received the Edward Fry Endowed Fellowship in Literacy at Rutgers University.

    He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the International Literacy Association and Little Free Library. He also serves as President of the NJ Literacy Association.

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    Buena Vista University

    A former middle school and high school English language arts teacher, Dr. Friesen is an engaged member of the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), Iowa representative with the ALAN Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, serves on the Iowa Department of Education's Literacy Leadership Team and currently serves as the collegiate liaison for the Iowa Council for Teachers of English (ICTE). Research interests include the academic acculturation of newcomer teens in Iowa schools, and literacy initiatives for at risk and reluctant teen readers


    Senior Director, Collection Development & Merchandising, First Book

    Alison Morris is a nationally recognized children’s book buyer. As the Senior Director of Title Selection for First Book, she oversees the curation of children’s and young adult books on the First Book Marketplace, hand-selecting a range of titles that speak to and address the needs of kids in underserved communities.  A passionate advocate for book access and affordability, Alison also contributes book recommendations to Book Friends Forever, the podcast of author/illustrator Grace Lin and editor Alvina Ling. 


    Executive Director, Open Books

    Eric Johnson joined Open Books as Executive Director in November 2018. Eric most recently served as the Senior Director of Philanthropic Partnerships with Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), a national organization focused on closing the academic achievement gap among pre-K–8th grade students through evidence-based, out-of-school-time programs. Prior to BELL, he served as the Director of Development and Capacity at the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), Chief Development Officer at the Golden Apple Foundation, and the Director of Development and Communication for the Inner-City Teaching Corps, now known as the Accelerate Institute.


    Executive Director, LitWorld

    Dorothy is the Executive Director of LitWorld, a global literacy nonprofit strengthening kids and communities through the power of stories. Dorothy has grown the organization over the last 10 years, including co-creating the annual World Read Aloud Day and the global HerStory Campaign. Dorothy was raised by artists and teachers, spending school years in New York City and summers upstate with her parents’ Mettawee River Theatre Company. She received her BA in English from Amherst College, her MA in Organizational Psychology and Change Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is currently a Coyle Fellow with the Center for Literacy Education at Notre Dame University. Dorothy is a proud resident of Brooklyn, NY and the parent of an ever-learning preschooler.


    Ossining Union Free School District

    Middle School ELA & Certified Library Media Specialist


    High School English Teacher & Project Lit Educator

    Nikki Healy is an award-winning English language arts teacher based in Nashville. She’s a devoted advocate for building community through student voice, choice, and culturally sustaining literature within the classroom. She has served in various teacher-leadership roles, most notably with Project LIT Community. Nikki is committed to empowering young people as readers, writers, and leaders—both in and out of the classroom. In July 2020, she was selected to receive the Nashville Public Education Foundation’s 2020 Inspiring Educator Award.


    Ossining Union Free School District

    Community School Leader, Ossining Union Free School District


    An Open Book Foundation

    Director of Development & Communications


    Director of Programs, Behind the Book

     Denise served as a classroom teacher before transitioning to the non-profit sector. As the Program Director for Good Shepherd Services she oversaw the Mentoring Program, Transitions to High School Compass High program with DYCD, after-school programming for Bronx Bridges HS, and previously served as Director for the college retention program, Brooklyn Lifelink. Ms. Cotton has a MA in Elementary Education from Stanford University and a BA from The New School. Denise is a Harlem native and passionate about education and the arts.


    Educational Marketing Supervisor, Candlewick Press

    Anne is an educational marketing manager at Candlewick Press. She  started volunteering at Concord Free Public Library serving on the Library Committee from 2000 – 2006. As an extension of that work, she has continued to serve as the Library Committee's representative to the art gallery for the past 15 years. In this role, she works with the library staff and art jury to coordinate changing exhibitions in the gallery.


    Penguin Random House

    Manager, Education Marketing


    Chronicle Books

    Andie serves as children's marketing director at Chronicle Books; previously she was director of library marketing at Candlewick Press.


    Executive Director of Marketing, Houghton Mifflin

    Lisa is the Executive Director of Marketing for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media. After being an elementary school teacher and a children’s bookseller, she received her master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College. She started her career at HMH in 1999 as a sales representative but quickly moved into the children’s marketing department. She has had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s best children’s book creators including Lois Lowry, Chris Van Allsburg, Linda Sue Park, David Wiesner, and Kwame Alexander. She thinks that the best part of her job is sharing great books with as many people as possible.


    Houghton Mifflin

    School and Library Marketing Manager


    Author and Illustrator

    Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, Revenge of the EngiNerds, The EngiNerds Strike Back, Geeger the Robot Goes to School, and Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, as well as the author-illustrator of the activity book Give This Book a Title. Jarrett is also the author-illustrator of the forthcoming activity book Give This Book a Cover and the forthcoming Hunger Heroes graphic novel series (all published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). He cofounded and helps run the MG Book Village, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects.


    Author, Book Uncle and Me

    For over twenty-five years, Uma Krishnaswami has written picture books, chapter books, early readers, short stories, retold story collections, and novels for young readers. She has spoken to audiences in the US, Canada, India, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Uma’s books have been translated into eleven languages. Uma teaches writing in the low-residency MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Born in India, she lives and writes in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.


    Author, Digging for Words

    Angela Kunkel is the author of Digging for Words: Jose Alberto Gtierrez and the Library he Built, illustrated by Paola Escobar and published by Random House/Schwartz and Wade (and simultaneously released in Spanish as Rescatando Palabras).  After soaking up the sun in the Southwest for a number of years, she now lives in Vermont with her family, two dogs, two guinea pigs, and one rapidly-growing bearded dragon (really, it’s rather alarming). Angela currently works as a school librarian and is a former English Language Arts teacher. Look for her next picture book, Penguin Journey, in 2021.


    Author, Little Libraries, Big Heroes

    Miranda Paul is an award-winning children’s author of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Miranda makes regular appearances at schools, libraries, and bookstores, and has been a guest presenter at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center along with environmental activist Isatou Ceesay. Miranda also serves as Mentorship chair for We Need Diverse Books™ (www.diversebooks.org), volunteers for Books for Africa, and is a regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers (Wisconsin Chapter).


    Author, My Librarian is a Camel

    Margriet Ruurs writes children’s and educational materials. She has a Master’s Degree in Education from Simon Fraser University and has studied the use of technology in teaching reading and writing to children. “I love to use my imagination and to dream up stories” says this creator of many books for children. Margriet loves to work in schools – to tell children about being a writer and to share her love of playing with language.


    Author, Waiting for Biblioburo

    Monica Brown is the author of the Lora Levine chapter book series, Sarai chapter book series and many award-winning picture books including Waiting for the Biblioburro and Maya's Blanket/La manta de Maya. Her latest picture book Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2017 and 2018 Pura Belpré Honor for Illustration. Monica's books have received multiple starred reviews, Pura Belpré Honors, Américas Awards, as well as an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor for best nonfiction and The Christopher Award, among many others. Monica's books are inspired by her Peruvian and Jewish heritage and desire to bring diverse stories to children. She is a professor of English at Northern Arizona University.


    Author, Planting Stories

    Multiple award-winning author Anika Aldamuy Denise writes stories that tickle her funny bone, tug her heartstrings, feed her curiosity, and celebrate her bicultural Puerto Rican/ Italian American heritage. She is the author of ten picture books including the Pura Belpré-honor winning Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré and the forthcoming A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! In addition to writing, she is mentor for Las Musas and LatinxPitch. Raised in Queens, New York, she now lives with her husband and three daughters in Rhode Island.

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