AboutUs-Featured copy

Reading (and being read to) have always been a central part of my life. I was the kid sneaking a book under the covers long after bedtime, and under the desk in school. In choosing to become a Reading Specialist I sought to convey my enthusiasm for good books to children. From my vantage point as a teacher educator in the D.C. area, I see the limited reading diet of children in schools serving low income students as one of the causes of the weak reading skills of so many students. Children simply aren’t reading enough to become highly proficient, but if they had access to more great books to read, they would read more.

Deborah Litt, Board Member

What We Do

Kindergartners laughing uproariously as their favorite author regales them with her latest picture book. Elementary school students watching, rapt as an illustrator brings to life a character from his graphic novels. Middle school students working with an award- winning author in a writers’ workshop. Inner-city high school students openly discussing with an author their experiences with peer violence as compared to those of the characters in the book they just received. A child hugging his new book, likely the first book that he has ever owned.

Founded by Dara La Porte and Heidi Powell, An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation promotes literacy by connecting authors, illustrators, and their books to students in under-resourced settings.  Every student attending the event gets a signed copy of the author’s/illustrator’s book to take home.  In addition, we give a set of the author’s/illustrator’s books to the classroom and school libraries.  After the presentation, the author or illustrator chats with each student while signing his or her book.

An Open Book Foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization.

How We Began

Dara and Heidi were children’s booksellers at a large independent bookstore in Washington, D.C.  After years of hosting author events for and recommending books to our young neighborhood customers, we continued to struggle with the fact that the vast majority of local students were unable to attend the store’s author events or purchase the books.  We knew that all children should have the opportunity to watch as an illustrator draws a famous character or clutch a book signed by the person who wrote it.

When we spoke with teachers and librarians about the concept of a foundation that would bring authors and illustrators to their schools and provide books for their students, classrooms, and libraries their response was unanimously positive.

Authors, illustrators, and publishers were equally enthusiastic.  We used that positive energy to create An Open Book, which allows us to share our love of books and their creators with children and teens throughout the entire D.C. area.

We founded An Open Book in November 2010 and began taking authors to schools in the fall of 2011.  That fall we hosted events in 11 schools and gave away over 1,000 books to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Who We Are

Dara D. La Porte, Founding Partner

Dara was the manager of the Children & Teens Department at Politics & Prose Bookstore before founding An Open Book in 2010. Dara served as an at-large member of the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) and as treasurer of ABC. She was appointed to the American Booksellers Association’s Booksellers Advisory Board and participated on several national panels on young adult literature. Before becoming a children’s book expert, Dara taught seventh and eighth grade social studies and English. Dara has a B.A. in history from Swarthmore College.

Heidi W. Powell, Founding Partner

Heidi worked in the Children & Teens Department at Politics & Prose Bookstore from 2004-2017, serving as its manager for the last seven years.  She was the department’s school/community liaison which included working with area schools to organize their book fairs.  Heidi has worked as a grant writer and as a city planner at the national, state and local levels.  She has a Master’s of City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and an A.B. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Janet Zwick, Education Director

Janet began her professional life as the Chief Investigator of the Mental Health Division of the D.C. Public Defender Service. She earned a J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and was an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow at the Georgetown Law Center’s Criminal Justice Clinic. Janet represented juvenile and adult clients in D.C. Superior Court. Three kids later, Janet shifted her professional focus to education. She taught at Adas Israel’s pre-school, The Jewish Primary Day School and at Lafayette Elementary School. At Lafayette, Janet split her time between working in the city’s largest children’s library and working with the reading specialists and teachers to strengthen student reading and writing skills. To achieve those goals while inspiring students to love reading, Janet created The Enthusiastic Readers and Writers Program. Janet has a Masters in Elementary Education from The George Washington University and a B.A. from Oberlin College in English. Janet currently volunteers for Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop at New Beginnings, DC’s youth detention facility.

Amy Kim, Development Director

Amy has spent her professional career as a university attorney, first at the University of Chicago and then at The George Washington University. Development, Grants and Contracts and Tax-Exempt Organizations were just a few of her many practice areas over her 18 year legal career. After leaving the university setting, she volunteered extensively in her children’s school and wrote grants for science enrichment activities. Amy has a J.D. from Indiana University—Bloomington and an A.B. from Bryn Mawr College.

Kathie Weinberg, Program Coordinator

Kathie is a library consultant with the Library of Congress Young Readers Center and former head of Teen Service at the Bethesda Library in Montgomery County, Maryland.  An active member of the American Library Association, YALSA Division, she has presented at annual meetings on programming and space planning for teens in public libraries.  Kathie is a former board member of Capitol Choices Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens and twice co-chaired the judging panel for the Walter Award, given by We Need Diverse Books to honor Walter Dean Myers and diverse books/authors.  Currently the Co-Director of the Walter Award, Kathie also serves on the 2018 Batchelder Award Committee to honor the publisher of a children’s book originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the US.  Kathie has a Masters in Science from Simmons College, and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin.

Kit Ballenger, Program Director

A former attorney with the Children in Need of Assistance unit of the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland, Kit has always enjoyed working with children.  She volunteers at the Young Readers Center of the Library of Congress and was for many years a volunteer at The Reading Connection, another local literacy nonprofit.  Kit serves as a board member at Capitol Choices Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens and sits on the Alumni Council at UVA Law.  Kit has a B.A. from Amherst College, a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, an M.L.I.S. from FSU, and, much to her family’s delight, a Certificate of Baking and Pastry from CCA/Le Cordon Bleu.

Participating Schools and Programs


Washington, District of Columbia

Ward 1:

  • Bancroft Elementary School
  • Bruce-Monroe Elementary School
  • Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter School: Chavez Prep
  • Cleveland Elementary School
  • DC Bilingual Public Charter School
  • Duke Ellington School for the Arts at Garnet-Patterson
  • E.L. Haynes Public Charter School: Georgia Ave. Campus
  • H.D. Cooke Elementary School
  • Inspired Teaching Public Charter School
  • Martha’s Table (Serving all Wards)
  • Meridian Public Charter School

Ward 2:

  • Hardy Middle School
  • Seaton Elementary School
  • Thomson Elementary School

Ward 4:

  • Bridges Public Charter School
  • Brightwood Education Campus
  • Capital City Public Charter School
  • Cardozo Education Campus
  • Center City Public Charter School: Brightwood Campus
  • D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School
  • E.L. Haynes Public Charter School: Kansas Ave. Campus
  • Raymond Education Campus
  • The Episcopal Center for Children
  • Truesdell Education Campus
  • West Education Campus
  • Whittier Education Campus

Ward 5:

  • Brookland Education Campus
  • Brookland Middle School
  • Bunker Hill Elementary School
  • City Arts and Prep Public Charter School (formerly William E. Doar, Jr. Public Charter School of the Performing Arts)
  • Dance Place
  • Dunbar High School
  • Friendship Woodridge Public Charter School Elementary School
  • Friendship Woodridge Public Charter School Middle School
  • Imagine Hope Community Charter School: Lamond Campus
  • John Burroughs Education Campus
  • Langdon Education Campus
  • Langley Elementary School (formerly Langley Education Campus)
  • Luke C. Moore High School
  • McKinley Middle School
  • McKinley Technical High School
  • Noyes Elementary School
  • Perry Street Preparatory Public Charter School
  • Potomac Prep Public Charter School
  • Washington Jesuit Academy
  • Wheatley Education Campus

Ward 6:

  • Center City Public Charter School: Capitol Hill
  • Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter School: Capitol Hill
  • J.O. Wilson Elementary School
  • Maury Elementary School
  • Miner Elementary School
  • Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts
  • Stuart-Hobson Middle School
  • Tyler Elementary School
  • Walker Jones Education Campus

Ward 7:

  • Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter School: Parkside Campus
  • DC Prep: Benning Elementary Campus
  • Free Minds Book Club
  • Friendship Public Charter School: Southeast Elementary Academy
  • Kelly Miller Middle School
  • Kimball Elementary School
  • Plummer Elementary School
  • Winston Education Campus

Ward 8:

  • Anacostia High School
  • Ballou High School
  • Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys
  • Center City Public Charter School: Congress Heights Campus
  • Charles Hart Middle School
  • Excel Academy Public Charter School
  • Ketchum Elementary School
  • Leckie Elementary School
  • Malcolm X Elementary School
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
  • Orr Elementary School
  • Patterson Elementary School
  • Project Create at Ballou STAY High School
  • Savoy Elementary School
  • Simon Elementary School
  • Stanton Elementary School
  • Sunshine Early Learning Center
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy
  • Washington Middle School for Girls: The ARC Campus
  • Washington Middle School for Girls: The View Campus


Montgomery County

  • Brookhaven Elementary School
  • Burnt Mills Elementary School
  • Highland View Elementary School
  • Gaithersburg Elementary School
  • Georgian Forest Elementary School
  • JoAnn Leleck Elementary School at Broad Acres
  • Montgomery Knolls Elementary School
  • Newport Middle School
  • Northwood High School
  • Oak View Elementary School
  • Pine Crest Elementary School
  • Roscoe Nix Elementary School
  • Saint Francis International School
  • Silver Spring Elementary School
  • Strawberry Knoll Elementary School
  • Twinbrook Elementary School
  • Wheaton High School
  • Wheaton Woods Elementary
  • Whetstone Elementary School

Prince George’s County

  • Barnaby Manor Elementary School
  • Hyattsville Elementary School
  • Montpelier Elementary School
  • Mount Rainier Elementary School
  • Port Towns Elementary


Arlington County

  • Patrick Henry Elementary School
  • Wakefield High School

City of Alexandria

  • TC Williams High School: ESL Program

Fairfax County

  • Belvedere Elementary School
  • Glasgow Middle School
  • Glen Forest Elementary School
  • Graham Road Elementary School
  • Hollin Meadows Elementary School
  • Lynbrook Elementary School
  • Oak View Elementary School
  • Poe Middle School
  • Providence Elementary School
  • Woodlawn Elementary School

Loudoun County

  • Sully Elementary School



  • 826DC
  • DCPS Health Literacy Training (Wards 7 & 8)
  • DC Housing Authority Book Fair (Wards 7 & 8)
  • Everybody Wins! DC
  • Horizons Greater Washington
  • Library of Congress Young Readers Center
  • Martha’s Table
  • Project Create
  • Sasha Bruce House: Sasha Bruce Youthwork

Participating Authors & Illustrators

Board Members

Carolyn Vinson Bou

Carolyn Vinson Bou is an attorney at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, specializing in estate planning and related areas of federal and state tax law, including estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax. Carolyn is a past-trustee and current co-chair of the capital campaign at the National Cathedral School, a member of the Child Health Center Board, and an advisor to We Read DC!, a student-led literacy initiative founded by her daughters. A mother of three, Carolyn is passionate about improving literacy in the District of Columbia.

Mary Alice Garber

Mary Alice Garber’s professional experiences have always focused on children and books. Currently, she is the buyer for the Children and Teens Department at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. A former public school teacher and supervisor, she also worked as Educational Coordinator at The Episcopal Center for Children in Washington, D.C. Mary Alice has two children who are both away at University.

Hope Harrod

Hope Harrod has been a 4th and 5th grade teacher in DC Public Schools for 15 years. She has a Master’s in Education from Boston College. In the 2012-13 school year, she received DC’s highest teaching honors, the Excellence in Teaching Award and Teacher of the Year. She currently serves on the boards of An Open Book Foundation and Live it Learn it, a non-profit, also in DC. She is also a trustee at Kenyon College.

Libby Jewett, PhD

Libby Jewett is a marine scientist by training and now Director of the Ocean Acidification Program (a federal scientific research enterprise) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Before pursuing graduate work in marine studies, she served as CFO for several human service (working on child care and with Central American refugees) agencies in the Boston area. Now that her own children are in college, she has time to get more involved in improving educational opportunities for children living in the metropolitan region.

Deborah Litt

Deborah Litt is an independent consultant providing professional development in literacy instruction.  In 2016 she retired from Trinity University in Washington, DC after teaching there for more than thirteen years. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (Reading) from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2003. Prior to that she worked for nine years as a Reading Specialist in Title 1 schools in Prince George’s County, MD.

Kerri Poore

Kerri Poore is the director of publisher and author relations for First Book, a national nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need. Prior to this, she worked almost eight years as a bookseller, and later assistant manager, and three years as the events coordinator for the Children and Teens Department at Politics & Prose Bookstore. She has a Master’s degree from American University in international politics, has worked for the World Bank, the US State Department and served two years in the Peace Corps in Madagascar.

Randy Siegel

Randy Siegel is CEO of Advance Local, one of the largest media groups in the United States, which operates the leading news and information companies in more than 25 cities. Since joining Advance Publications in 2001, Randy has served as President of Local Digital Strategy as well as President of Parade Publications when it was part of Advance Publications. He was also an executive at The Washington Post CompanyRandy has published three children’s books with Neal Porter Books and written for several publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Advertising Age. He has served on the board of Share our Strength, Research America, Cure Epilepsy and the Epilepsy Foundation. Randy received his Bfrom Wesleyan University and his MBA from Yale.

Interested in working with An Open Book?

Are you an educator interested in having An Open Book visit your school? An author or illustrator hoping to volunteer for AOB event? Please visit the Contact Us page and complete the appropriate Form, or send us an email and we’ll be happy to chat with you.