Author Bio

Dr. Julie Baxa (jfkb) is a lecturer at Oakland University in the Department of Teaching and Learning where she teaches undergraduate courses in reading and assessment-based instruction. Her research focuses on reading assessment and related instruction as well as digital literacies and has been published in The Reading Teacher as well as The Journal of Literacy and Technology. As a former elementary school teacher with 20+ years of classroom experience including having been a Reading Recovery teacher, her passion has been not only to teach reading but also to help others develop an enthusiasm, eagerness, and love for reading.

Julie Bonathan (jb) is a former teacher and certified reading specialist. She earned her undergraduate degree at Madonna University and her master’s degree through Northern Michigan University. In the classroom, she led 3rd, 2nd, and Kindergarten students on their educational journey. She currently works as a private reading tutor for multisensory phonics instruction. Julie is passionate about early literacy and incorporating texts that focus on building community and expanding the minds of her own two children.

Bethany Bratney (blb) is a school librarian, currently in her 20th year at Novi High School. She has previously worked as an elementary school librarian and as a high school classroom educator, teaching both English Language Arts and Psychology. She is proud member of the Michigan Association of School Librarians and served in many roles and capacities within the group, including Awards Chair and Co-chair of the MISelf in Books list for 2021 & 2022. She also serves as a member of the LIBRES book review group, a collection of school librarians reviewing books for the Pre-K-12 audience through an educational lens. Her passion, both inside and outside of school, is stories that represent the wide spectrum of humans and identities, and “Do you have a book recommendation for me?” is her favorite question. If not reading, she loves nature, long walks, movie nights with her family and trying not to kill her house plants.

Phyllis Ness (psn) is a veteran educator and lifelong learner. She is currently a faculty member in the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University. She teaches Emergent and Beginning Literacy classes, as well as Literature for Children. Her experience as a teacher of preschool through middle school children was an asset in her previous role as the Elementary Literacy Coordinator for a Detroit area school district. Phyllis is passionate about book access for readers. Her goal is to provide ALL children the opportunity to read books which reflect their unique identities and culture.

Dr. Leah van Belle (lvb) serves as the Executive Director of 313Reads. A proud Detroiter and first-generation high school and college graduate, she serves as the Immediate Past President of MRA and on the state’s Early Literacy Task Force. Across all her work in education—as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, director of clinical practice in urban teacher education, and graduate director of literacy programs—sharing books with little humans and their teachers remains one of her greatest joys. Most importantly, she is the mama of a neurodiverse little human who is teaching her to build with LEGO. Family read aloud is the best part of their day.

Julie Watanabe (jw) is a middle school literacy specialist in the L’Anse Creuse school district. She has worked with middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adult ESL students over the course of her career. Julie is always looking for ways to hook students on reading. Her favorite book choices for middle schoolers right now are graphic novels and books in verse.

Deborah L. Wolter (dlw) is a retired literacy consultant for Student Intervention and Support Services in Ann Arbor (Michigan) Public Schools. She has worked for over 20 years with public school teachers and their students from all walks of life and who were in different places of exploring multiple languages, literacies, and linguistics. Deborah has written several papers on literacy and family literacy for professional journals. Restorative Literacies, co-published with Teachers College Press and International Institute for Restorative Practices, is her third book. She is author of Reading Upside Down: Identifying and Addressing Opportunity Gaps in Literacy Instruction, published by Teachers College Press in June 2015. Being deaf since birth, she also offers a unique insider’s perspective on opportunity gaps. Her last book, Ears, Eyes, and Hands: Reflections on Language, Literacy, and Linguistics, published by Gallaudet University Press, was released December 2018.



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