Unlocking Literacy: Navigating Challenges in Early Reading .
Event | September 7, 2023
In celebration of International Literacy Day, Chemonics International partnered with Reading Partners and Room to Read to host an exciting event affording literacy champions a safe space to dialogue and reflect on critical issues around reading and literacy.
Literacy skills allow learners to seek information, explore the depths of subjects, and understand the world around them. However, foundational literacy is the human rights issue of our generation. This event featured the essential discussion about how the learning crisis post-COVID is being addressed internationally and nationally, and bridged the perceived gap between US-based literacy and reading programs and national reading programs being implemented across the globe.
The event’s screening of selected clips from The Right to Read was accompanied by a panel discussion.
Lesley Younge, middle school teacher, Maret School, and writer
Lesley Younge is an educator and writer from Silver Spring, Maryland. A veteran teacher with 18 years of classroom experience, she currently teaches middle school English at Maret School in Washington D.C. In March 2023, she published two books: Nearer My Freedom, a co-authored middle school found verse novel remix of Olaudah Equiano’s acclaimed autobiography and A-Train Allen, her first picture book. Lesley is a fellow of the Hurston/Wright Foundation and Anaphora Literary Arts. Her work has appeared in Midnight & Indigo, Full Bleed, and The Plentitudes, and she blogs regularly at teacherlesley.com.
Dr. Joanie Cohen-Mitchell, policy and technical leadership lead, USAID Center for Education
A three-year veteran at USAID, Joanie Cohen-Mitchell currently serves as Acting Deputy Director and Division Chief of the Center for Education. Prior to joining USAID, Joanie has spent over thirty years at the nexus of international development and education. A passion for literacy jumps out from any review of her career, with impactful work at Creative Associates, the Peace Corps, the Bernard van Leer Foundation, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Heather Simpson, chief program officer, Room to Read
As Chief Program Officer at Room to Read, Heather is responsible for the design, implementation, and monitoring of Room to Read’s Literacy and Girls’ Education & Gender Equality portfolios and custom projects in 21 countries. She serves as a critical member of the senior leadership team helping to set strategic direction for Room to Read’s programs and growth. Heather is also the Vice-Chair of the Board of the Basic Education Coalition and is a member of the executive committee and coleader of the education working group of the Scaling Up Community of Practice.
Dr. Kenya Dugger, senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Chemonics International
Dr. Kenya Dugger brings 23 years of experience working with executives and employees in global diversity, equity, inclusion, data analysis, culture awareness, ethics and compliance, and human resources. Before his position at Chemonics as the Senior Director of DEI, Kenya spent two years as deputy director at the Center for the Army Profession, Diversity, and Leadership, where he advised on DEI programming. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University, where he teaches curriculum in diversity and inclusion, organizational leadership, and human resource management, emphasizing the importance of multicultural awareness.
Audu Liman, head of the Atiku Institute for Development and education technical lead, American University of Nigeria
Audu Liman is currently the head of the Atiku Institute for Development and the technical lead for education at the American University of Nigeria, where he provides oversight on all humanitarian and development programs. Audu is a teacher education specialist by training and has over 25 years’ experience in developing and improving basic education across several African countries including Nigeria, Namibia and South Sudan. With a focus on literacy and teacher training in Namibia, South Sudan and currently Nigeria, Audu Liman has served as chief of party or country director for many projects.
Dr. Katherine Norris, department chair, Curriculum and Instruction, Howard University
As chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Howard University, Dr. Katherine Norris brings with her an extensive background in education, curriculum building, and program development with a strong emphasis on developing online courses. In 2020, Dr. Norris was awarded the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education’s Multicultural Leader of the Year Award for her leadership in multicultural issues in education. Dr. Norris also co-edited a textbook titled Social Justice and Parent Partnerships in Multicultural Education Contexts, which was recognized by IGI as a critical core reference text.
Ashley Hill, education specialist, Chemonics International
Ashley serves as an education specialist at Chemonics where she supports education programming and promotes the integration of positive youth development to ensure young people have an active role in the trajectory of their lives and communities. Having provided technical assistance and thought leadership to projects in Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa, Ashley is passionate about closing the opportunity gap for those from marginalized communities and using data analytics to improve educational access and outcomes. Her passion for solving global challenges equally extends to her local community, where she provides literacy tutoring to students through Reading Partners.