...is to close the literacy opportunity gap among children ages birth to age six in high-need communities by helping families develop and practice shared home reading habits.
...is to make interactive reading a joyful and rewarding routine for all families. We equip parents to be their child’s first teacher, empowered to be active participants in their child’s education, impacting success in school and beyond.
Christine was appointed Executive Director in October 2017, having originally joined Raising A Reader MA as Operations Manager in January 2010. Her passion for reading and empowering parents is supported by her volunteer work, raising her own two boys, and now as the leader of Raising A Reader MA. Other charitable work includes serving as a coach for Babson’s Coaching and Leadership for Teamwork Program, on Hill House Council (a community organization), the Nichols House Museum Committee, as a parent-teacher coordinator, and supporting numerous community events and fundraisers. With a background in marketing and working for entrepreneurial companies, she brings for-profit experience and insight to the non-profit world. Previously, Christine worked as a Vice President for Progress Partners, an investment bank and corporate advisory firm. With an MBA from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College, and a concentration in marketing, Christine is passionate about Raising A Reader MA's goal to end the literacy opportunity gap and excited to share her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial ideas with donors, partners, volunteers and her dedicated team. A few of her favorite children's books include Wild About Books and The Story of Ferdinand.
Katee joined the Raising A Reader MA team in February 2020. She has enjoyed her entire career learning from children and families and supporting them in a variety of pediatric settings including childcare, home visiting, and child welfare. Katee is a National Certified Counselor with an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and a graduate degree in Counseling and School Psychology, specializing in Early Childhood Counseling and Child Development. Her clinical interests include adoption, early childhood mental health, assessment, children's literature, and early literacy. Several of Katee's favorite picture books include I Feel a Foot!, NOT A BOX, and MEAN SOUP.
Mary Ann joined RAR-MA in September 2019 following a lengthy career as a Vice President in retail and commercial banking at several top 10 U.S. banks. In her most recent role, she provided strategic financial management solutions to large commercial and middle market clients, with a focus on non-profit and higher education. She has a wide-range of banking experience throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions including opening and leading flagship charter locations; conducting geospatial market evaluations and sales analytics; and developing strategies for increasing sales, customer loyalty, and market performance. Driven to close the opportunity gap and improve the lives of under-resourced communities, Mary Ann has volunteered for local and global nonprofits and currently serves as a Board Member of One Family and on the Board of Advisors for The Greater Boston Food Bank. Mary Ann holds a B.S. in Finance from University of Central Florida. Her favorite childhood book is Charlotte’s Web.
Francia has fond memories of reading The Little Prince as a child and enjoys reading the playful words of Shel Silverstein. She has been a devoted supporter of families and an enthusiastic advocate for young children. With a degree in teaching science from Cali-Colombia, she arrived in the United States to pursue a Master’s of Education with a focus in Early Childhood from the University of Massachusetts. “I like to see children growing surrounded by opportunities for discovery and to learn concepts that build life skills. Access to quality, age-appropriate books is key to develop reading competences.” Francia worked for a nonprofit in Franklin County for ten years implementing and developing early literacy programs, parental education opportunities and support services for families with young children. Francia participated from two state wide fellowships in which she supported policy recommendations for the implementation of the Quality Rating and Improvement System QRIS and other advocacy initiatives in the state.
Maria joined the Raising A Reader MA team in September of 2012. She immigrated to America in 1996 from the Cape Verde Island and immediately fell in love with books, especially Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. Maria earned her Bachelors of Science in Communications from Regis College in May of 2010. Upon graduation, she worked to decrease underage access to alcohol in Brockton. Most recently, Maria earned her Masters of Science in Organizational and Professional Communications also from Regis College. As a Brockton resident for over 15 years, Maria is delighted to be part of the RAR team and to bring books home to more children in the City of Champions- Brockton.
Tasha Espendez studied Communications and Culture at Clark University and over the last 17 years has cultivated experience in customer service, project management, and community organizing. In addition, she has instructional experience in Adult ESL education and youth empowerment programs. Tasha first learned of Raising A Reader MA from her engagement with the community as a NeighborCircles Lead Facilitator and Board member of Lawrence CommunityWorks. She was immediately attracted by the passion and mission of the organization and decided to join forces in April 2013 with the goal of improving kindergarten readiness for all children in the City of Lawrence. Through her efforts with the Raising A Reader MA initiatives, Tasha was recently awarded by local congress, the 2017 Unsung Heroine of Massachusetts Award. Some of her All-Time favorite books are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and the Little Vampire series, from Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.
Catalina joined Raising A Reader MA in February 2019, thrilled to be using her passion for education and love of books to support the children and families of Boston. She brings years of experience working as a Program Administrator and Instructor in a variety of nonprofit, education and service organizations--focusing on bridging gaps, providing support and having a positive impact on others’ learning. Working with people of diverse cultures and from underserved communities has always been a priority and pleasure of hers. As a lifelong learner, she loves to travel and has great memories of living in Costa Rica and studying abroad in Puerto Rico and France. She holds an MA in Teaching for Elementary Education and a BA in Psychology, and is certified to Teach English as a Second Language. Catalina is grateful to her father for always reading to her and her sisters as children, especially The Five Chinese Brothers (by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese), and enjoyed reading books by Sandra Boynton and Barefoot Books to her own daughters.
Guadalupe was introduced to Raising A Reader MA through a playgroup her two children attended. Later, she became a facilitator at that playgroup. In 2013, Guadalupe joined Raising A Reader MA as a Parent Ambassador. When she was a child, she had no books at home, but her father read the newspaper together with her every night. This experience has motivated her to reach parents and show them the importance of reading. Some of her favorite children’s books now include Froggy Gets Dress, Snuggle Puppy of Mine, The Very Hungry Bear and The Red Ripe Strawberry. Her childhood dream was to become a teacher. She is still looking forward to start her education in Early Childhood soon. Being a Parent Ambassador opened a new path for Guadalupe to help her community, and she eventually became a staff member as Parent Liaison, helping to coordinate all of the Parent Ambassadors. In the fall of 2018, Guadalupe was promoted once again to a full-time position as Program Coordinator, and in August 2019 to Program Manager serving Greater Boston. She feels grateful to contribute to such a wonderful organization.
Katharine joined the Raising A Reader MA team at the beginning of 2019, excited about strengthening efforts to understand the program impact on family and child literacy. Among her favorite books as a young child were The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes and anything about insects. Before coming to Raising a Reader MA, Katharine spent several years working in the education and economic development sectors in Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States. She hopes to apply her skills, as well as her commitment to data-driven decision making, towards creating a strong foundation for early learners and their families in Massachusetts. Katharine recently completed an MA in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University, where she focused on program management and evaluation, and holds a BS in Economics from American University.
Bridget joined Raising A Reader MA in February 2018, eager to help make an impact on the lives of underprivileged children in the surrounding community. Her favorite books to read with her parents were The Little Engine That Could and Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Late in 2017, after working at a digital advertising agency and a tech startup, Bridget decided to shift from the for-profit world and apply her talents to the Development team at Raising A Reader MA. She graduated from Williams College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
Meilin joined the Raising A Reader MA team in December 2019 as a Program Coordinator supporting the Merrimack Valley program, eager to collaborate with families in promoting an active reading culture. Her mother read fables and stories in Spanish daily as a child, which sparked her interest for reading and writing. Among her favorite children’s books are The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and The Three Little Pigs (in Spanish). She has had teaching experiences in the Greater Boston Area as well as in South Africa, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. She has dedicated her education career to focus on international and domestic bilingual education, languages, and literacy. Meilin recently completed an M.S.Ed in International Education Development at University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on language issues in education and ethnographic research, and holds a B.S. in Counseling Psychology and Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College.
Isaí joined Raising A Reader MA at the end of 2019 as the Program Coordinator for Greater Boston. He comes with over 6 years of teaching and coordination experience. Throughout his career he has worked with people from all over the world as an English and Spanish instructor. He’s passionate about languages and one of his goals is to become a polyglot. He has a bachelor’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and recently finished a certification as a medical interpreter. He fondly remembers sharing books with his grandmother, some of his favorite books to read when he was young include Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, Robinson Crusoe and all sort of comic books. He personally identifies with RAR-MA mission of closing the literacy opportunity gap by empowering families to develop shared reading routines. He’s motivated to reach families and help them realize the value of reading for young children.
Somaya was first introduced to Raising A Reader MA by a playgroup facilitator in 2015 she attended with her 2 kids. After seeing the impact of the dialogic reading techniques that she learned, Somaya decided to become more involved, eventually becoming a Parent Ambassador in 2016. Somaya has a B.A. in English literature from Morocco and just earned her Medical Interpreter Certificate from Found in Translation. She also works as a Pre-K Arabic teacher. Her love of literature and reading, and her incredible experience with RAR-MA as a parent, make her the perfect fit for this role. Somaya is proud to work for the organization that supported her, educated her, and helped her achieve her goals.
Ilka is working on a short-term contract to support and grow our team of our amazing Parent Ambassadors in Greater Boston. She is excited to be part of Raising a Reader as a Parent Liaison – a role which brings together her love of reading, passion for equity and strong belief in the power of parents as our children’s first teachers.
Ilka joins us from her native Australia where she was responsible for recruiting and supporting parent leaders in communities to drive improvements in early literacy and development for 2000+ children in a major ‘collective impact’ effort in low income neighborhoods.
Along with her experience in working locally with parents in communities to drive change, Ilka has worked at a national level as a lead consultant providing technical assistance to the Federal Campaign for Grade Level Reading supporting 30+ diverse communities across the US to identify results and indicators to drive improvements in grade-level reading for children.
In this role she was inspired by so many parents – busy, hard-working, sometimes stressed – who still found the time and energy to talk, read and play with their kids and help them learn and grow.
Ilka loved reading with her babies – now 13 and 11. Her favorite books were ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen and the ‘Hairy Maclary’ series by Lynley Dodd. She can still recite most of the words!
A curious and lifelong reader, Afsar joined Raising a Reader MAin January of 2019 as a Bilingual Parent Liaison. Having previously worked as an after-school teacher and private tutor, Afsar understands the importance of early literacy and availability of resources to help children succeed academically. Her favorite books to read as a child included The Rainbow Fish, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Before moving to Boston, Afsar graduated from the University of California San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Systems. Her hobbies include upholstery, illustrating, and playing guitar.
Board of Directors
Gregg Dooling has served on the Board of Directors for Raising a Reader Massachusetts since 2016 and was appointed Board Chair in 2018. Gregg is the Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of the Americas for Amundi Pioneer Asset Management. He is a member of Amundi Pioneer’s Executive, Management, and Operating Committees. Prior to taking the role of CFO in 2008, Gregg was Vice President and Corporate Controller for Pioneer Investment Management USA Inc. He has over 30 years of leadership experience in the Asset Management industry.
Gregg graduated from Bentley College with a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and earned his Masters of Business Administration from Bentley University. His range of experience expands from having held several management roles at Putnam Investments, John Hancock Funds and Ernst & Young.
After attending the annual Dinner with an Author Gala, Gregg was inspired by the organization’s mission of closing the literacy opportunity gap. Since joining, he is still constantly reminded of that inspiration from the staff’s passion and stories from the families in the program. Gregg always enjoyed reading the Goodnight Moon, Curious George and the Bernstein Bears books to his 2 children as they grew up and hopes to help spread that same joy to other families in finding their favorite books together. Gregg resides in Medford with his wife.
Francine practiced with the law firms Smith Lyons, LLP (Toronto, Canada) and WilmerHale, LLP (Boston) concentrating on complex business litigation, including white-collar criminal matters. She has experience representing companies and individuals in government investigations and litigations alleging fraud, bribery, conspiracy and violations of federal statutes. She subsequently worked as Corporate Counsel, Vice President at Shark, Ninja (Boston, MA) providing counsel and negotiating agreements in the areas of commercial practice, compliance, intellectual property, and employment law. Francine received her law degree from University of Toronto and her undergraduate degree from McGill University. Francine currently serves on the Board of Youth Villages, the Board of the Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, and has worked and volunteered with numerous other non-profit organizations, including Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Big Brother Big Sister Foundation of Boston, and the Shady Hill School. Francine lives in Brookline with her husband, three children, two guinea pigs, numerous fish and a corn snake.
Heather Dickinson is a Managing Director at Deloitte. Heather has over 20 years of experience serving and leading audit engagements and relationships for a diverse mix of clients within the technology, manufacturing and service industries. Such clients have included public registrants, large private companies, and serving emerging growth companies. She has extensive experience advising companies on technical and industry related matters. Heather also holds a National Office role for Deloitte, she supports the Audit practice Chief Operating Officer. In this role, Heather works with the leadership team to execute on the priorities and strategy of Deloitte’s Audit practice. Heather is on the New England leadership team for Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative. She is a graduate of Villanova University, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts and Massachusetts and New York Society of Certified Public Accountant.
Daryl Andrews is a founding partner of Andrews DeValerio LLP. Her law practice includes a wide range of clients in complex business litigation and class actions. After graduating from Smith College and Boston University School of Law, Ms. Andrews clerked for Judge Michael A. Ponsor of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts. Ms. Andrews and her husband are raising two daughters and a Golden Retriever. Her favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Melissa Alexander is an IT Director of Enterprise Resource Planning for Foundation Medicine. Throughout her career, she has supported healthcare, biotechnology, transportation and energy companies by delivering business value through technology projects and programs with a focus on organizational change management.
Melissa received a BBA in Finance and Management Information Systems from the University of Oklahoma and holds an MBA from Tulane University. Melissa also co-owns a family winery in her hometown in Oklahoma where she serves as marketing manager.
She enjoys city life and lives in Bay Village with her two daughters. Melissa loves photography, yoga, gardening and travel. She's been known to pack a bag at the drop of a hat and has been to nearly 70 countries and hopes to pass her travel bug along to her young daughters.
In addition to being a passionate advocate for Raising A Reader MA, Melissa is very active in the community and has served as President of the Boston Chapter of OU Alumni and on the Board of Directors for Tulane University Alumni. She has been an active volunteer of the Junior League since 2006 and recently served as Director of Communications. She is also the founding Executive Leader of the New England Region of the Children’s Heart Foundation, a cause near to her own heart as her daughter was born with a congenital heart defect.
Dr. Ola J. Friday was appointed Associate Commissioner of Workforce Development at the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care in August 2017. There she leads the state’s efforts to support the professional development of early childhood educators. Ola was raised with an appreciation for the power of education to change lives through the examples of her parents. Initially drawn to the classroom, the urge to impact systemic issues compelled her to pursue work at the policy level.
Ola brings to her work a doctorate in Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a Master of Public Policy from the Goldman School at UC Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Tufts University.
From an early age, Ola's parents instilled in her a love for reading. To this day not much makes Ola happier than escaping with a good book. Ola looks forward to contributing her program development, policy development and knowledge of early childhood education to the work of Raising A Reader MA.
When Ola isn’t working or enjoying a good book she is traveling the world and spending time with her two nephews who amaze her every day.
Aria Glasgow is an Associate Partner in Aon’s Human Capital Solutions practice. Aria has over 20 years of compensation consulting and human resources experience. Her client engagements include developing programs that attract and retain key talent required to help companies scale. She is a frequents speaker at human resources conferences. Prior to joining Aon, Aria held leadership roles at Sullivan, Cotter & Associates, Pearl Meyer and Investors Bank & Trust.
Aria has a Bachelor of Arts in accounting from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Master of Business Administration from Babson College.
Aria has served on several not-for-profit boards and enjoys volunteering her time with Habitat for Humanity and other community organizations. Some of her favorite childhood books include Goodnight Moon, Charlotte’s Web, and Bears in the Night. Aria lives in Westborough, Massachusetts with her husband, 3 children, and 2 dogs. In her free time, Aria enjoys practicing yoga and skiing.
Justin Hayward is a partner at Cross Coastal Advisors and works with rising young professionals, educating them on how to manage their cash flow and maximize their financial potential while making the appropriate plans to protect their families and preserve accumulated wealth. Justin’s understanding of family business dynamics comes from his own family of entrepreneurs, who have run a school photography business for over 30 years. Justin earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship from Hofstra University, and his early career centered on successfully starting, managing and exiting several businesses in the health and wellness industry. Justin’s financial services career began in 2011 when he joined Commonwealth Financial Group. In 2015, Justin received the 4 under 40 Award for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA MA) – recognized for his growth and success in the industry. Outside of the office, Justin volunteers his time with Raising a Reader MA – A non-profit focused on helping childhood literacy in urban neighborhoods – and is involved in real estate development in the Greater Boston Area. Justin resides in Wellesley, MA with his wife Lydia.
Susan Houston’s experience covers the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Most recently, Susan was Executive Director of MassEcon, a private, non-profit economic development entity charged with promoting Massachusetts as the best place to start, locate, and grow a business. As MassEcon’s first Executive Director, she grew the organization from its inception in 1993 to become a respected voice within the economic development community. During her 25-year tenure, Susan oversaw and implemented rebranding efforts, strategic planning, creation of financial partnerships, board development, membership growth, and exceptional programming. In fulfilling its mission, MassEcon helped 275 companies expand or locate within Massachusetts, adding over 30,000 jobs to the state. While at MassEcon, Susan was a gubernatorial appointee to the state’s Economic Development Planning Council and a member of the board of the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership. She currently serves on the boards of JVS (Jewish Vocational Service), New England Economic Partnership, the Town of Brookline’s Economic Development Advisory Board, and as a consultant with ESC, Empower Success Corps.
In her spare time, Susan can be found at her favorite neighborhood haunts – the Brookline Booksmith and Coolidge Corner Theatre. Her favorite childhood book was Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen. Susan holds an undergraduate degree from Boston University and a Master of City Planning from MIT.
Jonathan currently oversees compliance and risk management for a division of State Street Corporation that develops software, analytics, research, and advisory products for other multi-national financial institutions. He has experience building and overseeing global teams to manage regulatory and operational risks. Jonathan previously served as a consultant with experience in retail and financial services industries. He holds a B.A. in English from Rollins College and an M.B.A from Babson College.
Jonathan is owner and COO of Madison Food Corp. and related companies. In addition to running the day to day operations of his family’s three Boston area supermarkets, Jonathan is also in charge of the company’s expansion. Jonathan is a member of the board of the Massachusetts Food Association and former board member of the Food Marketing institute and One Village at a Time. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Occidental college in Los Angeles, Jonathan earned his law degree at Suffolk Law and his MBA from ESADE in Barcelona. Jonathan lives in Medfield with his wife.
John joined Sigma Prime in November of 2012 to help build the firm and help invest in great entrepreneurs. Prior to joining Sigma Prime, John was a Co-Founder and Managing Director of General Catalyst Partners. John has been a recipient of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council “Investor of the Year” Award. John is a member of the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO). He is also a co-founder and current trustee of the Steppingstone Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities to deserving inner-city students. In addition, he has continued his involvement with the non-profit sector by founding the GreenLight Fund (www.greenlightfund.org), which spurs the replication and growth of innovative non-profits. John is a graduate of Harvard University, earning a B.A. in History and Science and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and received his M.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Alumni Advisory Board Members