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 Director

Dara was the manager of the Children and Teens Department at Politics and 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 involved in children’s books, Dara taught seventh and eighth grade social studies and English. Dara has a B.A. in history from Swarthmore College.

Heidi W. Powell, Founding Director

Heidi was the manager of the Children and Teens Department at Politics and Prose Bookstore from 2010-2017. While she was the department’s school/community liaison, Heidi participated in several American Booksellers Association panels on coordinating in-store book fairs with local schools. Heidi has worked as a grant writer and as a city planner at the national, state and local levels.  She holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Amy Dickinson, Education Coordinator

Amy has taught in early childhood programs at the Jewish Community Center of Austin, the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, and, most recently, at DC Bilingual Public Charter School in an inclusive, Spanish/English PreK classroom. She is a former Peace Corps Paraguay education volunteer and AmeriCorps service member, and she holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts and an M.A. in early childhood special education from George Washington University. A life-long devotee of connecting people with books, Amy has lost count of how many student and community book clubs she has organized, not to mention how many in which she participates. She currently is pursuing a master’s degree in library and information science at the University of Maryland, where she coordinates a civic engagement program for first- and second-year college students.  

Jennifer Barnes Eliot, Development and Communications Director

Jennifer has worked in communications, development, and marketing in a wide array of not-for-profit and for-profit organizations in the US and internationally. For the past 10 years, she has led several international schools in building their communications, development, marketing and alumni relations functions in Hong Kong, New Delhi, India, and Maryland. She has also worked in a related capacity for the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand, Aspen Publishers, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Children’s Television Workshop. Jennifer has a B.A. in public communication from American University.

Breanna J. McDaniel, Program Coordinator

Breanna hails from College Park, GA and is the author of Hands Up!, her debut picture book. She is also a third year PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge, where her research is focused on readers’ responses to the depiction of black children as comestible in contemporary picture books. In addition to her growing body of scholarship and her creative work she is taking strides to unite communities within her field to encourage broader representation of children from diverse backgrounds. To this end she organizes a bi-annual conference in Glasgow, REIYL (Researchers Exploring Inclusive Youth Literature), an initiative she co-founded with colleague Joshua Simpson. She is a proud alumna of Emory University and Simmons University.

Josarie Molina, Program Coordinator

Josarie has been serving children and families for over 20 years as an art teacher, museum educator, art historian, school librarian, storyteller, and stage performer. She worked as the school and family program coordinator for the Museum of Art in Puerto Rico (2004-2012) and as the librarian for DCBilingual Public Charter School (2012-2019). Josarie has a passion for creating and coordinating events, programs, and services that foster life-long learning. She loves to spend summers with family in her native Puerto Rico. Josarie has a B.A. in visual arts from Bates College, an M.A. in art education from Goddard College, and continues learning every day.

Kerri Poore, Program Director

Before joining An Open Book, Kerri was 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. Kerri worked for more than eight years in the Children and Teens Department at Politics and Prose Bookstore, first as a bookseller, then as its assistant manager, and finally as the department’s events coordinator. Kerri has a master’s degree in international politics from American University, and has worked for the World Bank and the US State Department. She lived in Madagascar for four years, including two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. Kerri lives with her husband and son and their dog Waffles, who hails from a small farm in Ithaca, NY.

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 master’s degree in library science from Simmons College, and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin.

Participating Schools and Programs

Schools

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

Maryland

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

Virginia

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

Programs

  • 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 Counsel in the Tax and Wealth Planning Group at Venable LLP, specializing in estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax planning and wealth preservation strategies. Carolyn has chaired planned giving committees at the Washington National Cathedral and the National Cathedral School (“NCS”), is a former board member at NCS and also co-chaired its last capital campaign. A mother of three, Carolyn is passionate about improving literacy in the District of Columbia.

Hannah Oliver Depp

At the center of Loyalty Bookstores is Hannah Oliver Depp, a long-time bookseller who
 has been working nationally to expand the mission of local bookstores and ensure a competitive
future in independent retail. At the heart of Hannah’s mission is a desire to bring diverse and local offerings to communities who do not see themselves equally represented. Black owned and operated businesses have a unique chance to offer representation and engender excitement.

Michelle Edwards, EdD

Michelle Edwards is a native Chicagoan who found her way to Live It Learn It by serving as the principal of Orr Elementary for almost a decade.  Michelle has also served on the board of Live It Learn It for over five years. She received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University and Master’s degrees from Loyola University Chicago and Trinity University, Washington, DC.  Michelle participated in New Leaders, Inc. as a resident principal during its inaugural year in Washington DC and 10 years later served as the Director of the Emerging Leaders Program.  She recently earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Organizational Management from the University of Pennsylvania. 

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, PhD

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.

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.