Staff

Amanda Hirsh

Amanda Hirsh

Executive Director

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 Francese

Lisa Francese

Program Director

Lisa transitioned from a career in finance to education in 2008. Since then she has directed and developed programs focused on literacy and social and emotional learning in pre-K, elementary and middle schools. Lisa is passionate about creating partnerships with schools, community and corporate organizations, as well as mentoring her teams of educators. She has designed and led Professional Development and family workshops and has extensive expertise in monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of grant-funded literacy and technology programs. 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

Christie Steele-Garcia

Development and Operations Associate

Christie Steele-Garcia is the Development and Operations Associate 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.

Samantha Murray Doktor

Samantha Murray Doktor

Program Officer

Samantha works as a Library Specialist with Books for Kids. Samantha earned her bachelor's degree from Ohio University in Adolescent to Young Adult English Language Arts and received her master's degree in Literacy from New York University. Samantha has worked with students of all ages in a variety of environments, where she aims to convey her passion for literacy while fostering confidence, efficacy, and growth. Samantha has previously taught middle school and tenth grade English Language Arts in Jersey City, New Jersey. Currently, Samantha is also a Literacy Specialist with Keys to Literacy, where she creates individualized, targeted lesson plans for each of her students.

 
Samantha Salloway

Samantha Salloway

Administrative Assistant

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.

Amanda Deutch

Amanda Deutch

Library Specialist

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.  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 Dougherty

Tanya Dougherty

Library Specialist

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.

Jackie Goldman

Jackie Goldman

Library Specialist

Jackie works as a Books for Kids Library Specialist in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She earned her bachelor's degree from New York University, her elementary teaching degree from St. Bonaventure University, her master's degree in Children's Literature from Hollins University and she is now pursuing a second master's degree in Library and Information Science through the University at Buffalo. Jackie has taught most elementay grades, but she also has a special passion for working with emergent readers. "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." Luis Borges' quote continues to inspire her in her work and as a parent to share her personal and professional love of children's books, libraries and education with everyone around her.

Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper

Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper

Library Specialist

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.

Juliette Portnoy

Juliette Portnoy

Library Specialist

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 working with at-risk populations 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.

Ashley Weismantel

Ashley Weismantel

Library Specialist

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 Williams

Cassandra Williams

Library Specialist

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."