SLJ & LJ Open Books Open Minds 2024

Experience dynamic and informative content in this day-long virtual conference brought to you by SLJ & LJ in partnership with NCTE. You’ll hear from the rockstars of reading and literacy from authors and teachers to librarians and other education and industry leaders. All of this talent and expertise is coming together to raise up the love of reading. 

NCTE’s contribution is a specific strand of content that shines the light on “Heart Hope and Humanity,” their theme for the year which will culminate with their annual convention in Boston this November.  

Tune in for a robust day of expert panels, keynotes, downloadable resources, thought-leadership presentations, product exhibits, and more — all designed to give you the strategies you need to support engaging reading environments. Attendees will gain insight into tools, practices, and initiatives that put books and reading front and center, elevating and celebrating the value and impact of this important collective work.  


The program is still under development – stay tuned for updates!  


EVENT HOURS: 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM ET / 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM PT 



All live sessions will be on Zoom. Make sure to log in to your work or personal Zoom account before the day starts to avoid having to log in for each session.  

The Virtual Environment is optimized for 1024 X 768 screen resolution. Joining the environment with a cell phone is not recommended. Please make sure your computer and browser are up to date. Chrome tends to work best. The event platform does not support IE11 + Windows 7 or older versions.  

CE certificates are available in the event environment for all keynotes and panels, whether you view them live or on-demand. Certificates are not provided for sponsored content.  

If on the day of the event you find that you are unable to access the environment or join a session, please know that sessions will be available for on-demand viewing within 24 hours, and the entire event will be accessible for three months from the event date.  

By registering for this event or webcast, you are agreeing to School Library Journal Privacy Policy and Code of Conduct Policy and agreeing that School Library Journal may share your registration information with current and future sponsors of this event.  

Having trouble registering? Contact the Event Manager

Interested In Sponsoring? Please contact Advertising Director Roy Futterman:

The program is still under development – stay tuned for updates! 

11:00 – 11:30 AM ET | Exhibit Hall Opens

11:30 AM – 12:00 PM ET | Opening Keynote: Sayantani DasGupta


12:05 – 12:50 PM ET | Making a Series Commitment

Savvy teachers and librarians have long known that series can invite young people into reading and sustain their interest for long periods. In this resource-packed session, explore the measurable benefits of reading series—both fiction and nonfiction—and gather book recommendations, practical tips, and community-building ideas for supporting the series readers in your life.

Saadia Faruqi, author
Kate Messner, author
Moderator: Donalyn Miller, teacher, author, and consultant


12:05 – 12:50 PM ET | The Short Stack: Finding Reading Time & Engagement with Shorter Texts

The rise in popularity of text formats such as poetry and novels in verse, short story anthologies, collected biographies, and graphic novels offer opportunities for fitting reading into a busy life. In this session, learn about the benefits of reading shorter texts and discover books that entice readers who claim they do not have the time or attention to read.

Speakers TBD


12:55 – 1:40 PM ET | Author Panel TBD

12:55 – 1:40 PM ET | Author Panel TBD

1:40 – 2:00 PM ET | Break / Visit the Exhibit Hall


2:00 – 2:45 PM ET | Better Together: Activities & Tips for Creating Social Reading Experiences

Many readers report higher engagement with reading when they can share books and reading with other people. Reading and discussing books with a partner or group can increase reading volume and comprehension, too. In this lively session, examine the value and implementation of read alouds, book clubs (including silent ones!), and other social reading experiences.

Cathy Blackler, retired educator and Grams to Havana, Willow and Axel #gramsreadswithhavana #gramsreadswithwillow #gramsreadswithaxel on IG
Sara Clarke-De Reza, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education and the Director of the Museum, Field, and Community Education program, Washington College (MD)
Jillian Heise, elementary school librarian and founder of #classroombookaday
Moderator: Lynsey Burkins, author and elementary school teacher

2:00 – 2:45 PM ET | IMLS Research Debrief: Motivation, Reading, and Literacy Development

Attend this session to hear about new reading research related to IMLS' learning agenda. The research seeks to learn more about how the social influences of motivation and engagement can strengthen children’s literacy behaviors. Participants will gain insights into actions and activities they could use during child reading programs as they help build a lifelong love of reading.

Emily Plagman, Strategic Research and Evaluation Officer, IMLS
Moderator: TBD

2:50 – 3:35 PM ET | Transformational Partnerships: Improving Literacy Development Through Community Support

As pandemic learning loss, political polarization, and book ban campaigns threaten to undermine advancements in literacy and reading culture, many successful partnerships between schools, libraries, and community stakeholders are changing literacy outcomes for people in their community. In this session, learn about a variety of collaborative efforts between schools, non-profits, businesses, and families that increase access to books, improve literacy rates, and build a community of readers.

Alvin Irby, Founder, Barbershop Books
Nawal Qarooni, author & consultant
Moderator: Hallie Rich, Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal


3:40 – 4:25 PM ET | NCTE Heart, Hope, and Humanity: Student Engagement in Elementary Spaces

Join three long-time educators as they discuss methods for engaging elementary students through books, writing, and classroom design. Authors of Deepening Student Engagement with Diverse PicturebooksClassroom Design for Student Agency, and Cultivating Young Multilingual Writers will be in conversation to share best practices, insights, and tips from their recent books. This session is beneficial for teachers and anyone who works closely with elementary aged kids.

María E. Fránquiz, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin and NCTE past president
Franki Sibberson, Executive Director of SproutFive’s Institute for Professional Learning
Dr. Angie Zapata, Associate Professor of Language and Literacies Education at the University of Missouri
Moderator: Dr. Tiffany Rehbein, Principal at Bain Elementary School, Cheyenne (WY)

4:25 – 4:55 PM ET | Break / Visit the Exhibit Hall

4:55 – 5:40 PM ET | Re-Invisioning the MS/HS Canon

Contemporary voices from across the globe—texts celebrating and respecting the diversity of human experience—invite young people into reading and expand their understanding of themselves and the world. In this session, explore the benefits of re-imagining the “classic” canon by diversifying the texts offered to students and changing the pedagogy around how books are taught and discussed.

Tricia Ebarvia, school administrator, former HS English teacher, author, co-founder of #DisruptTexts
Joy McCullough, author
Kate Roberts, author and former middle school/high school teacher
Ibi Zoboi, author
Moderator: Shelley Diaz, SLJ Reviews Editor


5:45 – 6:05 PM ET | NCTE Heart, Hope, and Humanity: Survey on Diverse Texts and Censorship in Public Education

Since 2022, researchers at Colorado State University have conducted a large, national study of teachers’ perspectives and experiences around diverse texts and recent issues of censorship in K-12 public schools. Teachers have been largely overlooked in conversations about book censorship. Join this session to learn more about what the preliminary findings are showing and how they can potentially be used to inform national and state level decision making in the years ahead.

Ricki Ginsberg, Associate Professor and Co-director of English education at Colorado State University
Moderator: Sarah Miller, Senior Coordinator of Intellectual Freedom and Book Initiatives, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)


6:10 – 7:00 PM ET | NCTE Heart, Hope, and Humanity Closing Keynote: A Community That Cares: Raising Engaged Readers and Citizens

The author/illustrator team of Dan Santat and Minh Lê will join NCTE’s President Elect, Tonya Perry, to discuss the role that picturebooks play in helping young readers to be more engaged as both readers and citizens of the world. The long-term partnership and perspectives of these two creators never fails to shed new light and depth to the works they create and how to bring stories to readers.





Minh Lê is the author of several children's books including Drawn Together, which won the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and Lift which was an Eisner Award Nominee. His other books include Let Me Finish!, The Perfect Seat, and The Blur. Minh has written for the New York Times, the Horn Book, and the Huffington Post. He currently lives in San Diego, California with his wife and kids. Visit him online at or on Instagram and Twitter @bottomshelfbks. 




Dan Santat is the #1 New York Times-bestselling author and illustrator of over a hundred books. His picture book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend received the Caldecott Medal. He also illustrated The Blur, Lift, and Drawn Together, all written by Minh Lê, which received critical acclaim. Dan is the creator of the Disney animated hit The Replacements. He lives in Southern California with his family. 









Vera Ahiyya was raised in El Paso, Texas with her wonderful mother and amazing grandparents. Vera has taught Kindergarten and first grade for the last 16 years. Her online presence is dedicated to influencing other educators by spreading her vast knowledge and love of inclusive children’s books. She is the author of Rebellious Read Alouds, a professional development book for educators. She is also the author of three picture books, You Have a Voice, KINDergarten, and Look How Much I’ve Grown in KINDergarten. 



Cathy Blackler still owns the first book she purchased with her own money. As an advocate for fostering a reading community in all spaces, she has experienced reading joy as an adult by sharing her love of the written word with her three now adult children, with her students and colleagues alike, where she was named Rowland Unified’s District Teacher of the Year in 2012, and most recently with her three grandchildren, who call her Grams, and whom have had a book shared with them every day of their lives. 



Sara Clarke-De Reza, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Education and the Director of the Museum, Field, and Community Education program at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. She teaches courses in the historical and cultural foundations of American education, as well as in educational research and design. As a member of the Busload of Books Research Project, Sara works on an interdisciplinary team of authors and illustrators, educators, sociologists, community school partners, and undergraduate student researchers to measure the impact that engagements with authors and illustrators can have on children’s motivation to read, write, and draw. 





A co-founder of #DisruptTexts, Tricia Ebarvia advocates for literacy instruction rooted in equity and liberation through critical literacy. Tricia taught high school English for 20 years and is currently the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at an independent school in Philadelphia. She is the co-founder of the Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy (IREL), a National Writing Project educator, and the author of Get Free: Anti-Bias Literacy Instruction for Stronger Readers, Writers, and Thinkers (Corwin). 




Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer, interfaith activist, and cultural sensitivity trainer featured in O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the author of the Yasmin series and also writes middle grade novels, such as Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero, and other books for children. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, an online magazine of poetry, short stories, and art. Besides writing books, she also loves reading, binge-watching her favorite shows, and taking naps. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her family. 




María E. Fránquiz is currently a member of the WestEd Board of Directors, co-editor of the Bilingual Research Journal, and has co-authored the books Inside the Latin@ Experience: A Latin@ Reader and Scholars in the Field: The Challenges of Migrant Education. Recognition of her work includes the NCRLL Distinguished Senior Scholar award, NCTE Advancement of People of Color Leadership Award, the AERA Div G Faculty Mentor Award. She is most proud of her 20 years as Mentor and 6 years as Director of NCTE’s Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color program.   




Ricki Ginsberg’s research interests include educational equity; teacher education; and the recruitment/retention of Indigenous teachers and teachers of color. Ginsberg is former president of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN); director of the Black, Indigenous, and Teachers of Color (BITOC) Collective and chair of the Native American Advisory Council to the president at Colorado State University; and faculty affiliate for the Race and Intersectional Studies in Educational Equity (RISE) Center. Her published books include Engaging with Multicultural YA Literature in the Secondary Classroom: Critical Approaches for Critical Educators and Challenging Traditional Classroom Spaces with YA Literature: Students in Community as Course Co-Designers. 




Jillian Heise is a National Board Certified Teacher with one Masters degree in Reading/Language Arts + another Masters in Library & Information Science. She has been an elementary Library Media Specialist in southeastern Wisconsin since 2017. Prior to that, she taught 7th & 8th grade ELA in the Milwaukee area for eleven years with an additional year out of the classroom as a literacy consultant. As founder of #ClassroomBookADay (inspired by Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday) in 2014, Jillian is a passionate advocate for the power of shared stories to build classroom and school community and engagement. She dedicates her practice to the right to read and supporting all students by honoring their identities and lived experiences through access to inclusive literature. Jillian served as the Chair of the Wisconsin State Reading Association's Children's Literature Committee for eight years. She also presents at conferences and provides workshops at the local, state, regional, national, and international level to share her literacy expertise and book knowledge to inspire other educators. You can find Jillian online at Heise Reads & Recommends and @heisereads. 




Veera Hiranandani, author of the Newbery Honor–winning The Night Diary, earned her MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of The Whole Story of Half a Girl, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asia Book Award finalist, and How to Find What You're Not Looking For, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award and the New York Historical Society Children's History Book Prize. A former editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches in the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA Program at The Vermont College of Fine Arts. 




Alvin Irby is an award-winning early childhood educator, social entrepreneur, TED speaker, comedian, and author. He is Founder and Chief Reading Inspirer at Barbershop Books, a national literacy nonprofit that inspires Black boys and other vulnerable children to read for fun. Irby was recognized as a top 10 CNN Hero of 2023, won the 2023 SXSW Community Service Award, was named a PepsiCo Foundation and Doritos 2023 Black Changemaker. In 2016, he received the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize for his work expanding book access for children. Irby is passionate about helping educators, librarians, and caregivers create learning experiences and environments that inspire children to identify as readers and to read for fun. Irby earned an MS in Childhood Education from Bank Street Graduate School of Education, an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, and a BA in Sociology from Grinnell College. 



A former Chicago social worker, Peter Kahn has been an English teacher since 1994 and a Spoken Word Educator since 2003 at Oak Park/River Forest High School. His students can be seen in Louder Than a Bomb and America to Me. A founding member of the London poetry collective Malika's Kitchen, he co-founded the London Teenage Poetry Slam and, as a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths-University of London, created the Spoken Word Education Training Programme. Peter was a featured speaker at the National Council of Teachers of English's annual convention and runner-up in the NCTE and Penguin Random House Maya Angelou Teacher Award for Poetry. Along with Patricia Smith and Ravi Shankar, he edited The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, reviewed in the New York Times by Claudia Rankine. Peter's 2020 poetry collection, Little Kings, has poems featured in the London Guardian and The Forward Book of Poetry.  



Bonnie Kelso studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is the Illustrator Coordinator for Nevada SCBWI and winner of the 2021 Karen Cushman Award. Her 2023 debut NUDI GILL: POISON POWERHOUSE OF THE SEA was chosen to represent the State of Nevada at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Other titles by Bonnie Kelso include WONDER OF THE WOODS, QUAIL TRAIL, and SEA SMILES—the first in a three book series, of which SLEEPY SEA is the second and SEA SUDS will be the third. She is represented by Liz Nealon @GreatDogLit. Website: 



Rashin Kheiriyeh is a multi-award-winning author-illustrator, animator, and painter who has more than ninety children’s books to her credit. Her books have been published in at least twelve countries and she was nominated for the 2023 & 2024 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to children’s literature. She is also the recipient of a Sendak Fellowship Award, a 2009 New Horizon Award (Bologna Ragazzi), and is a six-time winner of the Bologna Book Fair Illustration competition. Rashin Kheiriyeh is the character artist of the most popular animation series on national television in Iran called “Shekarestan” (“Sugarland”). She lives in Washington, DC. 



Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her family. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Her debut novel, Blood Water Paint, was longlisted for National Book Award and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. She is also the author of We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire and the New York Times bestseller Champ and Major. 



Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books for kids who wonder, too. Her award-winning titles include picture books like Once Upon a Book, Over and Under the Snow, and The Scariest Kitten in the World; middle-grade novels like All the Answers and Breakout; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series; the Ranger in Time chapter book adventures; and the History Smashers illustrated nonfiction series. A former middle-school Language Arts teacher, she splits her time between New York's Champlain Valley and Florida's Gulf Coast. Visit her online at and find her on social media at @katemessner. 



Tonya B. Perry, interim provost at Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama, and NCTE vice president, is a tireless advocate for students and educators. She works to develop programs that uplift historically marginalized peoples and has been a member-leader of the NCTE Executive Committee, the NCTE Research Foundation Trustees, the NCTE Inclusivity Task Force, NCTE’s Assembly on Research, the NCTE Editorial Board, and NCTE’s Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color program. She serves on the National Writing Project’s board of directors and was a 2000 National Teacher of the Year finalist. Perry has worked as a middle school teacher, teacher educator, and full professor. She recently coauthored Teaching for Racial Equity: Becoming Interrupters (2022). 




Emily Plagman is the Strategic Research and Evaluation Officer at IMLS in its Office of Research and Evaluation and provides strategic support and project management for advancing research and evaluation projects. Emily holds a Master’s in International Public Policy from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a bachelor's in Political Science from Marquette University. Prior to coming to IMLS she worked on assessment and evaluation projects at the Public Library Association and American Academy of Pediatrics. 




Nawal Qarooni is an instructional leader, writer and adjunct professor who supports a holistic approach to literacy instruction education spaces across the country. Drawing on her work as an inquiry-based leader and as a mother, Nawal’s pedagogy is centered in the rich and authentic learning all families gift their children every day. She is the author of Nourishing Caregiver Collaborations: Exalting Home Experiences and Classroom Practices for Collective Care. She was a longtime classroom teacher in both Brooklyn and Chicago, and formerly a newspaper journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Journalism, and Brooklyn College. She serves on the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Advisory Board, which funds powerful literacy programming in the world, and Reese Witherspoon's LitUp committee to select historically marginalized voices for publication. Learn more or connect via @nqarooni on Instagram and Threads, @NQCLiteracy on X, or her website at  



Dr. Tiffany Rehbein has nearly 20 years of experience in English teaching and literacy. A former member of the Executive Committee for NCTE, Tiffany is currently on the Charlotte Huck Award® for Outstanding Fiction for Children committee. She is also on the editorial board for the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and she serves as the Southeast Regional President for the Wyoming Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals (WAEMSP).  



Franki Sibberson is a literacy leader with over 30 years of experience as an elementary classroom teacher in Ohio. Franki served as president of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is the co-author of Classroom Design for Student Agency with Lynsey Burkins published by NCTE and In Community with Readers published be Stenhouse.  She currently serves as the Executive Director of SproutFive’s Institute for Professional Learning. Franki provides leadership and consulting to schools and nonprofits.  




Dr. Angie Zapata is a longtime teacher, teacher educator and researcher. Her research publications highlight classroom experiences featuring picturebooks with diverse racial, linguistic, and ethnic representation, and how/what translingual and transmodal literacies are produced in these moments. Dr. Zapata’s research is guided by her experiences growing up bilingual in Texas as a daughter of immigrant parents from Perú, and deep commitments to center anti-oppressive and justice-oriented language and literacies experiences in the classroom that nurture more inclusive schooling experiences for racialized bi/multilingual/multidialectal children and youth. Her book entitled Deepening Student Engagement with Diverse Picturebooks: Powerful Classroom Practices for Elementary Teachers is part of the Principle in Practice Series published by the National Council of Teachers of English.  



Ibi Zoboi is the New York Times bestselling author of American Street, a National Book Award finalist; Nigeria Jones, a Coretta Scott King Award winner; Pride; My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich; Star Child; Okoye to the People; the Walter Award–winning Punching the Air, cowritten with Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam; and the Coretta Scott King Honor–winning picture book The People Remember. She is also the editor of the anthology Black Enough. Born in Haiti and raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her family. You can find her online at 



































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