The mission of the Books for Kids Foundation is to promote literacy among all children with a special emphasis on low-income and at-risk preschool-aged children. Books for Kids creates libraries, donates books, and implements literacy programs to develop the critical early foundation and skills which young children need to be successful in life.
Studies show that emergent literacy in preschoolers must be supported by a print-rich environment. Books for Kids ensures that Department of Education-recommended books are available wherever children spend their day, by donating books and establishing libraries in those facilities. We also ensure that each child in our program receives at least one brand new book to take home and share with his or her family.
Books for Kids was created in 1986 by a group of New Yorkers who recognized that children who do not have adequate access to books must surmount enormous disadvantages when entering school.
What began as an informal project to collect and distribute 1,000 books to needy children for the holidays quickly took on much greater dimensions when we gave away 2,000 books in the first year and 9,000 in the next. It was clear to our founders that an organization providing access to age-appropriate books for low-income children with little or no resources was desperately needed.
To learn about our current literacy programs, click below:
Board of Directors
Mary K. Athridge
Director, Corporate Communications, Legg Mason
Mary Athridge is Managing Director, Corporate Communications for Legg Mason, Inc. In that role, she works with the senior leadership at Legg Mason and at its principal investment subsidiaries to develop and implement communications strategies to enhance brand value and drive business initiatives. She also has oversight responsibility for financial and transaction communications, crisis communications and investor communications support. Ms. Athridge joined Legg Mason from Citigroup Asset Management in the transaction to acquire that business from Citigroup in December, 2005. Previously, she was with Salomon Smith Barney and Salomon Brothers, and began her career in Washington in political positions in the White House and U.S. Small Business Administration. She has a B.A. from Georgetown University and a M.B.A. from George Washington University. She is also on the Board of the Angelica Patients Assistance Program. Ms. Athridge lives in New York City.
Amanda G. Baldwin
*Board Vice Chair
Ms. Baldwin is the President of the indie beauty company Supergoop!, the first prestige beauty brand dedicated to UV protection. Prior to joining Supergoop!, Amanda was a member of the operating team at L Catterton, the largest global consumer-focused investment fund, collaborating with management teams across the portfolio and serving as the Chief Marketing Officer of StriVectin Operating Company. A veteran of the beauty industry, Ms. Baldwin led the retail development strategy of the Dior Beauty brand at LVMH, Inc. and held several positions at Clinique, a part of The Estee Lauder Companies. Her career began in finance as a member of the Consumer/Retail Group at Apax Partners and the Communications, Media and Entertainment team at Goldman, Sachs & Co. She earned an A.B. magna cum laude Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and an M.B.A. with honors from The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Palmer Scholar. She is a graduate of the Aspen Seminar.
Managing Director, Morgan Stanley
Selma Bueno is a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley in Investment Banking based in New York. She is part of the Global IBD Management team, leading many key IBD initiatives. Selma joined the Firm in 2010 as a Vice President based in Sao Paulo. She has over 15 years of industry experience, advising financial institutions across North America and Latin America on strategic transactions, including advisory and financing. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, she spent almost 10 years in Merrill Lynch’s Financial Institutions Group in New York. Selma holds an MBA from Columbia Business School, a law degree from the University of Sao Paulo and a business undergraduate degree from Fundacao Getulio Vargas.
Kay Du Fernandez
Vice President, Strategic Business Development, Konica Minolta
Kay Du Fernandez is the Vice President, Strategic Business Development for Konica Minolta, a leader in advanced document management technologies and IT services. Prior to joining Konica Minolta, Ms. Fernandez spent over twelve years at Toshiba America Business Solutions, holding positions in all aspects of product management, including Vice President of Marketing. Kay has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California, San Diego and a masters of business administration from Pepperdine University. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Orange County Ballet Theater (OCBT) and is a supporter of Oceana. She has also led the marketing efforts at St. Mary's School, a 501(c)(3) International Baccalaureate Day School in Aliso Viejo, California. Ms. Fernandez is passionate about reading and cultivating our future generation of business and technology leaders. She resides in Franklin Lakes, NJ with her husband, Frank, and three daughters.
Partner, Crestview Partners, LLC.
Adam Klein is a Principal at Crestview Partners, a value-oriented private equity firm. He works with the energy team and specializes in oil-field services and unconventional energy investments. Prior to Crestview, Adam worked as an analyst at Centennial Ventures where he evaluated, executed and monitored investments in early to mid-stage companies across multiple industries, as well as at Compass Partners and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Adam is currently a director of FBR & Co, Select Energy Services, Silver Creek Oil & Gas, Synergy Energy and Texoma Transportation and Crude Marketing. He is also a board observer at Samsom Resources. Adam received his A.B. cum laude from Harvard College and his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
Partner, Quinn Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
Evangeline Shih is a partner at the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan LLP. She works with the life sciences practice group and specializes in Hatch-Waxman litigation on behalf of innovator pharmaceutical companies. Prior to Quinn Emanuel, Evangeline was a partner at the law firm of Jones Day. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” Super Lawyer and Super Lawyer in New York since 2011. She has also been a member of the Advisory Board for the Fordham Law Neuroscience and Law Center since 2015. Evangeline received her A.B. from Princeton University and her J.D. from Fordham Law. Her interest in books stems from childhood summers spent at a county public library in Indiana where her father was the Library Director. She lives on the Upper East Side in Manhattan with her husband David Decima, who is a partner at a Houston-based energy fund, and their two young sons.
Senior Partner, Blank Rome LLP
Robert Stein is a senior partner at the law firm of Blank Rome LLP and is co-chair of the Firm’s Financial Services, Restructuring and Bankruptcy Practice Group. Bob primarily represents senior secured lenders in leveraged acquisition financings and recapitalizations. He has previously been a partner at the law firm of Wolf Block LLP and in-house counsel at Bankers Trust Company and at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company. Bob earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and his law degree from Albany Law School at Union University, and brings strong management and analytical skills developed over the past 30 years of his legal practice. He has had an abiding interest in addressing through early childhood education the needs of disadvantaged children. Bob is the proud father of three grown children and one son-in-law and resides in Manhattan with his wife Paula, who is the Director of Development for the Randall’s Island Park Alliance.
Graham S. Stephens
Managing Director, HFF
Graham Stephens is a Managing Director for HFF, one of the largest and most successful commercial real estate capital intermediaries in the country. He is primarily responsible for investment sale transactions throughout New York and the Tri-State area. Mr. Stephens’ main focus is on office and retail properties. Prior to joining HFF, he was a Managing Director on the capital markets team at Cushman & Wakefield (f/k/a Cassidy Turley & DTZ). Prior to that, he was with Eastdil Secured’s New York City institutional sales team. Mr. Stephens began his commercial real estate career at RBS Greenwich Capital's real estate finance group. He is a member of Urban Land Institute’s New York District Council Advisory Board. Mr. Stephens has a BA from Hamilton College and resides in New York City with his wife Lauren. They are active members in the NY Public Library Young Lions Program and a Patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Apollo Circle.
President of Sales Division, Sussman Education
Ron is the President of the Sales Division for Sussman Education, a leader in K-12 digital and print sales distribution that has served New York City schools for over 40 years. In 2011 he helped launch Lightswitch Learning, a national K-12 sales organization that has recently published several best-sellers in the parent engagement arena. Mr. Sussman graduated from Binghamton University with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and currently lives in New York City. Ron had a 60-23 career record for Binghamton University Tennis. Sussman Sales was recognized in 2011 as one of "Inc.com's Fastest Growing Companies."
Executive Advisory Board
Owner, Keep Me Company
Talent Acquisition, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising
Tamar E. Ogburn
Event Planner, Emblem Health
John M. Toriello, Esq.
Partner, Holland & Knight
Scott H. Tornek
Co-President and CEO, So Smart! Productions
Osei A. Van Horne
Professor, New York University
Partner, Inter-Atlantic Group
President’s Early Childhood Education Board
President, Sirius Thinking Ltd.
Patricia A. Edwards
Professor, Language and Literacy
Michigan State University
Eugene E. Garcia
Vice President, Education Partnerships
Mary Lou Fulton College of Education
Arizona State University
Sheila Smith Ph.D.
Director, Early Childhood National Center for Children in Poverty
Mailman School of Public Health
Dr. Tamara G. Spencer
Assistant Professor, Early Childhood,
Elementary, and Literacy Education
Montclair State University
Childhood Literacy Board
Laura Geringer Bass
Anika Paaren-Sdano, PhD
Denise Lewis Patrick
John Graham Tucker
Amanda Hirsh is the Executive Director of Books for Kids since November 2012. She comes to Books for Kids from the Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, New Jersey, working on alumni events, annual giving, and new initiatives, and before that as a Sales Representative for children’s books at HarperCollins Publishers. Amanda graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Comparative Literature, and the Trinity School in New York, where she currently serves as a class representative, raising money for the Trinity Fund and is a Board Member of the Trinity Alumni and Alumnae Association. Amanda lives in New York City with her husband, two sons, and dog.
Lisa's expertise is in designing and directing Pre-K to 8th grade school programs focused on literacy and social and emotional learning. She is passionate about creating partnerships with education, community, and corporate organizations, as well as mentoring her teams of educators. Lisa enjoys teaching, writing, and developing and leading Professional Development and family engagement events. She has extensive experience in overseeing and measuring the impact of grant-funded literacy programs and a vast knowledge of the education and youth development space in NYC and beyond. Lisa has worked with ExpandEd Schools, Edison Learning, and Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation. Lisa graduated from Rowan University where she earned a B.A. in Political Science. A voracious reader herself, Lisa resides in Astoria with her many, many books.
Christie Steele-Garcia is the Development Manager at Books for Kids. Christie oversees the fundraising initiatives and donor communication efforts of Books for Kids. Christie joined Books for Kids in 2012 as an Administrative Assistant and Office Manager and has held a number of roles within the organization since that time. Christie graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA where she earned a B.A. in Theatre and Dance. She is currently an active member of NYC's Empire A Cappella and serves on the Junior Advisory Board of Statement Arts. Christie lives in North Bergen, NJ with her husband and dog.
Office & Community Engagement Coordinator
Sam graduated from Ithaca College where she studied Theatre, English, and Creative Writing. She has a background in non-profit theatre arts administration, previously interning at HERE, Primary Stages, Transport Group, and the Hangar Theatre. Sam is especially interested in reaching young audiences and has a passion for engaging children in arts and literature, believing that every child should have access to material that challenges and inspires them. Sam lives in Brooklyn with her rabbit, Neville, where she continues to grow her personal library.
Amanda Deutch works as a Library Specialist at Books for Kids. She is a published poet who was born and raised in New York City, and she graduated from Bard College with a BA in Performance Studies. For the past 15 years, Amanda has lead creative writing workshops for youth and adults around New York City, including at the Coney Island YWCA, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Harlem’s Association to Benefit Children. Her father read to her every night before bed when she was a child, leading to a lifelong love of books and a passion for language, and her elementary school librarian, Ms. Blanchett, holds a special place in her memory.
Tanya works as a Library Specialist with Books for Kids in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She received her BFA in Theater from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia and her MFA from Brandeis University in Boston. Tanya has a passion for developing literacy skills, imagination, and movement in emergent readers and has worked in library programming for children in Australia and for the Brooklyn Public Library. She is also a Teaching Artist with Treasure Trunk and enjoys creating programs that inspire a love for reading using drama, movement, songs, and imagination to make books really come alive. Tanya loves being able to combine her two great loves, books and drama, to share this passion and light with kids.
Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper is a Library Specialist at Books for Kids working in the Mario Batali Foundation libraries in Las Vegas, NV. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin—Madison with an Elementary Education degree. Following graduation, Hannah followed her love of literacy to Malaysia and Singapore where she visited locations that serve as cultural and historical backdrops in books, particularly works penned by local authors. She has taught literacy to children in a variety of schools and worked at multiple libraries.
Vanessa Lewis works as a Library Specialist at the Books for Kids Boston libraries. Vanessa is a novelist and digital content creator who holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College. In addition to her own writing projects, she has been providing writing, coaching, and editing services to aspiring writers of all ages for over four years. Vanessa's own love of books started early in her childhood and she develops and nurtures that same love of reading in the youngest of children through her inspired storytelling.
Juliette Portnoy has worked as a Library Specialist with Books for Kids in Los Angeles, CA since April of 2016. Juliette graduated with a BS in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. Juliette’s experience ranges from casework in foster care to working as a counselor in various school settings. As a mother, Juliette is passionate about early education and the importance of teaching literacy from the earliest age possible. Juliette finds nothing more gratifying than helping families bond through endeavors that are enriching for the mind and soul.
Sarah is an NYC Library Specialist with impressive dedication and experience from her years of work as a performing arts educator. After receiving her B.A. in Theater from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Sarah began her career as the Performing Arts Coordinator for the Belmont After School Enrichment Collaborative. During her time there she created and taught literacy-infused performing arts curriculum for students in grades K - 8. Particularly meaningful for Sarah was her time in Uganda with the Namugongo Fund for Special Children where Sarah developed "Global Artists, Global Citizens," a cross-cultural arts based curriculum and communications program for students in Uganda and the US. Additionally, Sarah has worked for the Tower School (in her home state of Massachusetts) as a drama teacher, crafting and implementing developmentally appropriate curriculum for students ages 3 to 14 in summer programs.
Sarah adores telling stories and creating theater with her young students, and has spent hours upon hours reading, writing plays, creating scripts, and performing with them. Children's literature has always been a great passion of hers, and Sarah is excited and honored to share that passion with the children of Harlem and East Williamsburg.
Ashley works as a Library Specialist with Books for Kids in NYC. Hailing from the Aloha state and now a happy resident of Brooklyn, Ashley earned her Performing Arts degree from Pacific Rim Arts College in Honolulu. Known as the "Bubble Lady" in Kaakako, Hawaii, Ashley brought her passion for youth development to homeless children there via her lively community performances which enriched the children's learning experiences and introduced them to the joys of the arts. She has a deep and abiding love of literature, extensive experience working with children ages 2 to 7, and her StoryTimes are nothing short of magic shows. Additionally, Ashley has a background in nutrition, wellness and physical fitness. She is currently a teaching artist and performer with Treasure Trunk Theatre in Brooklyn.
Cassandra works as a Books for Kids Library Specialist in Goodwater and Alexander City, Alabama. She graduated with a B.S. degree in Social Science from Adelphi University in New York. Cassandra has a passion for creative teaching techniques such as multicultural literature and learning through cooking and agriculture in the classroom, techniques she used in her elementary education classrooms which encouraged literacy and curiosity. A proud mother herself, Cassandra is passionate about reading and speaking to children as early as possible, even in the womb. Cassandra finds nothing more gratifying than helping families create special memories through reading and inspiring their imaginations and creativity through literature, song, dance and acting. Her personal and professional motto is: "books as a way to anywhere."