Program Begins at 12:23
Join SMART Reading as we celebrate our 30th anniversary with an afternoon of inspiring and informative conversations about the importance of diversity in children’s books.
All kids deserve to see themselves and their experiences reflected in books. We’ll hear from librarians, authors, nonprofit leaders, booksellers and educators about why representation matters, what trends they’re seeing nationally, and what you can do to help ensure the kids in your life have access to an inclusive bookshelf.
We’re delighted to be joined by Jelani Memory, owner and founder of A Kids Company About (and author of A Kids Book About Racism) as the keynote speaker. A Kids Company About will also be offering one year of free access to their education app for all educators who attend the summit.
MEET OUR HOSTS
Children's Book Bank Literacy Program Manager
Jessica has been working in the social services and nonprofit sector in Portland for nearly a decade. As an avid reader and book enthusiast in her personal life, making the career change into the literacy world was a perfect opportunity to combine her love for reading and her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion through her work with The Children's Book Bank. As someone from a multicultural background, getting to provide books that represent every child brings personal meaning and joy to her work.
Executive Director, SMART Reading
Chris Otis joined SMART Reading as executive director in December 2010. In that time, she has effectively led the organization through a strategic planning process that has resulted in impressive program growth and improved financial stability. With Otis at the helm, SMART Reading’s number of children served has grown by nearly 60 percent, which has been achieved by aligning SMART Reading’s efforts with key state education goals and working to gain deeper understanding of the populations the organization serves. Chris has a rich background of more than 25 years in nonprofit leadership. She received both her MBA and her Bachelor’s degrees from California State University in Sacramento.
Christine Pitawanich is a reporter and fill-in anchor for KGW News. During the pandemic she has focused her reporting on education and the 2020 wildfire recovery efforts. She has been nominated for two Regional Emmys for her contribution to a project that took viewers inside Oregon’s ICUs during the COVID-19 Delta wave as well as her story about the first Chinese-American woman to fly for the U.S. military who was born in Portland. Prior to KGW, Christine worked in Southern Oregon at KOBI-TV NBC5 News. In Medford she started as a reporter and ended as an anchor for the 5PM and 6PM news broadcasts. It was during that time she volunteered as a SMART Reader for 4 years. Christine has a master’s in broadcast journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Washington. Christine is a huge foodie who loves to travel, dance, and ski. She loves the Pacific Northwest being born and raised in the Seattle area.
MEET OUR PANELISTS
Multnomah County Library
Danielle Jones is the Youth Development Manager at Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon providing leadership, strategic visioning, and support for library youth and family initiatives, and ensuring youth have access to library resources and services. She recently served on the 2022 John Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, and reviews for Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal.
CEO & Founder of A Kids Company About
As a Black father of six, entrepreneur Jelani Memory wanted to talk to his kids about race and racism. So, he wrote a book: A Kids Book About Racism. That one little book evolved into a powerful media company that’s disrupting the publishing industry, creating brand new bold stories for kids across audio and video, and above all, empowering a generation of kids with diverse stories. In raw, uplifting talks, Jelani shares his unusual entrepreneur's journey. He reveals how passion, vulnerability, and good business sense can lead to true innovation — the kind of innovation that can create a brighter, more just world.
Jelani Memory is a Black entrepreneur and storyteller. He launched A Kids Book About in 2019 with his now-bestselling book, A Kids Book About Racism. Prior to starting his kids media company (now known as A Kids Company About), Jelani co-founded Circle Media Labs, Inc., a hardware/software company where he served as the Chief Product Officer. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and six kids.
Founder, Little Black Book Nook
Dolisha Mitchell is the founder and CEO of Little Black Book Nook, an online educational resource sparking curiosity, compassion, and courage through picture books with a purpose. She’s a former teacher and current content and curriculum writer for an e-learning company and children's book subscription box. Dolisha holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of South Carolina and resides in Hillsboro, Oregon, with her family.
CAROLINE TUNG RICHMOND
Executive Director, We Need Diverse Books
Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning young adult author whose novels include Great or Nothing and The Only Thing to Fear. She is the co-editor of the Hungry Hearts anthology and the co-author of Great or Nothing, a retelling of Little Women set during WWII. Caroline is also the executive director of We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit that seeks to create a world where everyone can find themselves on the pages of a book.
New Book Buyer, Powell's Books
Madeline Shier (she/her) purchases new books for half of Powell’s children’s sections, including YA, middle grade, early reader and board book titles. She also buys world language titles for all ages and myth, metaphysics, and linguistics titles for adults. Raised in Washington state, Madeline graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in English Literature and Theatre Performance before returning to the PNW to perform Shakespeare and work with children’s books. As a queer woman, she is particularly passionate about LGBTQIA+ representation for young readers.
Sonja Thomas (she/her) writes stories for readers of all ages, often featuring brave, everyday girls doing extraordinary things. She's a contributing author for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic. Raised in Central Florida—home of the wonderful world of Disney, humidity, and hurricanes—and a Washington, DC transplant for eleven years (Go Nats!), she’s now “keeping it weird” in the Pacific Northwest. Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence is her debut novel.