detroit riverfront

Michigan Reading Association
Empowering all Michigan Students and Educators through Literacy

2016 Speakers

2016 General Session Speakers

lavoie rick

Friday Pre-Conference Speaker

Rick Lavoie
Rick Lavoie served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for 30 years. He holds three degrees in Special Education and holds two Honorary Doctorates in Education from the University of Massachusetts (2003) and Mitchell College (CT – 2007).  He has served as a visiting lecturer at numerous universities including Syracuse, Harvard, Manhattanville College, University of Alabama, University of Melbourne and Georgetown.  His numerous national television appearances include The TODAY Show, CBS Morning Show, Good Morning America, ABC Evening News, and Walt Disney Presents. Most parents and professionals know Rick through his videos "How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T.  City Workshop""Last One Picked, First One Picked On: The Social Implications of Learning Disabilities" and “When the Chips are Down: Learning Disabilities and Discipline”.  These classic, award-winning films have brought Rick’s sensitive and compelling message to countless thousands throughout the world. 

tatum alfred

Alfred Tatum
Alfred W. Tatum is the Dean of the College of Education and director of the UIC Reading Clinic. Tatum's research focuses on the literacy development of African American males, particularly the roles of texts and writing to advance their literacy development. He is interested in how texts can be used as tools to preserve one's humanity. He is the author of Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap, Reading For Their Life: (Re) building the Textual Lineages of African American Adolescent Males, and Fearless Voices: Engaging the Next Generation of African American Male Writers. 

delapena matt

Matt de la Peña
Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling author of five critically-acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You and The Living. He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson). Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country. 


Rand Johnathan

Johnathan Rand
Since 2000, Johnathan Rand has visited over 1,500 schools in the US, Canada, and Europe. His funny, engaging style has earned him a position as one of the most sought-after school speakers in the country. Johnathan Rand's message is simple: reading and writing are the keys that will unlock success in every aspect of life for EVERYONE!


duke nell

Nell Duke
Nell K. Duke is a professor of literacy, language, and culture at the University of Michigan. Her recent books include: Inside Information: Developing Powerful Readers and Writers of Informational Text through Project-based Instruction and Beyond Bedtime Stories: A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills From Birth to Five, second edition.

Garrett Byron

Byron Garrett

One of the most compelling voices of our time, Byron V. Garrett is Chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance (NFEA); a nonprofit dedicated to transforming education through meaningful family engagement. Byron serves as the Director of Educational Leadership & Policy for Microsoft and a consulting author for Scholastic. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Board for The Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, is a trustee for The Guyana Foundation and the CeCe Peniston Youth Foundation and was recently named to The Root 100 which recognizes emerging and established African-American leaders under 45 who are making extraordinary contributions.


2016 Featured Speakers


Anderson Jeff

Jeff Anderson
Jeff is known for his enthusiasm in making grammar, editing, and writing a positive experience for teachers and students. He has authored numerous articles and books including Mechanically Inclined, Everyday Editing, and 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know. A frequent presenter at national and state conferences, Jeff is a full-time staff developer and writer.

baker matthew book

Matthew Baker
Matthew Baker writes stories and books for children and adults. He’s also making a video game with some friends, and, with another friend, working on a film project.

Barshaw Ruth McNally Ruth McNally Barshaw
Ruth McNally Barshaw wrote and illustrated six journal-style novels for the Ellie McDoodle series and has illustrated one picturebook, Leopold the Lion (Sleeping Bear Press, Sept 1, 2015). She and her husband Charlie travel widely teaching writing and story-creation workshops to kids and teachers. She performs on harmonica once a year with an all-author band called Erin Murphy’s Dog. See her work and author visit information at
Bigler Mary

Mary Bigler
From pre-school teacher to college professor, in lecture halls around the world, Mary Bigler has spent her life promoting literacy and celebrating the joys of teaching.  She is an award-winning professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University.  She is a past president of the Michigan Reading Association and author of the highly-acclaimed Mary Bigler’s Lessons Learned.

Blackhawk Terry

Terry Blackhawk

Terry Blackhawk, founder of InsideOut Literary Arts Project, is author of Escape Artist, winner of the John Ciardi Prize, The Light Between, and four other books of poetry.  A long time teacher in Detroit Public Schools, she was twice named MI Creative Writing Teacher of the Year and received a MI Governors’ Award for Arts Education. She is a 2013 Kresge Arts In Detroit Literary Fellow.

Brege new

Darrin Brege & Karen Bell-Brege
Karen & Darrin Brege are an author/illustrator, husband and wife team that have 11 children's books out to date, including their new picture book, Monster's First Day at School. As comedy and improv performers, radio personalities, and speakers & trainers, they bring laughter and motivation to schools, family nights, associations and corporations. Darrin is proud to have been selected as the artist to create this year's MRA Diamond Jubilee 2016 Reading All Stars poster. 

Brennan-Nelson Denise new

Denise Brennan-Nelson
Denise has written many books for children, including He's Been a Monster All Day, My Momma Likes to Say, and the popular Willow Series. Denise shares her love of Michigan and the Great Lakes in her newest book, Tallulah: Mermaid of the Great Lakes. In presentations across the country, Denise encourages adults and children to tap into their imaginations to create richer, fuller lives.

 carter james bucky

James Bucky Carter
James Bucky Carter holds a Ph.D. in English Education from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. He studies the intersections of comics and literacy, multimodal and media literacies, and critical theory and Young Adult Literature, and has published and presented work to that effect in state, regional, national and international platforms. His major works include the edited collections Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels (an NCTE best-seller), Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels (Maupin House), and Super-Powered Word Study (a Next Gen Indy Book Award nominee for Maupin House), which he coauthored with Erik Evensen. He founded SANEjournal: sequential art narrative in education and has published with ALAN, NCTE, ASCD,  and MLA, among others. 

Conley Mark

Mark Conley
Dr. Mark Conley has spent 30 years working in urban schools and communities. 22 of those years were spent as a professor at Michigan State University's College of Education. While at MSU, he developed literacy programs in Lansing, Saginaw and Flint. Now at Memphis, he has been working with career urban educators to provide literacy instruction by pairing college students with struggling readers.

Curtis Christopher Paul

Christopher Paul Curtis
Christopher Paul Curtis is the award-winning author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963Bud Not BuddyMr. Chickee's Funny MoneyMr. Chickee’s Messy Mission, and Bucking the Sarge. His second novel, Bud, Not Buddy, is the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

draper sharon

Sharon Draper
Sharon M. Draper is the author of over 30 award-winning books, including Out of my Mind, which remains on the NYT bestseller list. She served as the National Teacher of the Year, has been honored at the White House six times, and was chosen to be a literary ambassador to the children of Africa as well as China. In 2015 she was honored by the ALA as the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award.

 drozd jerzy

Jerzy Drodz
Jerzy Drozd is the author/illustrator of The Front: Rebirth and has worked on Antarctic Press's Ninja High School as well as projects for Marvel Comics, VIZ Media, and others. He most recently worked with writer Dan Mishkin and artist Ernie Colón on The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination, published September 2014 from Abrams ComicArts. He has produced several long-running podcasts including Comics Are Great, Kids' Comics Revolution!, Art & Story, Lean into Art and more. He shares his passion for comics by teaching cartooning workshops in libraries and schools and is a co-founder of the annual Kids Read Comics festival. 

Edwards Patricia Patricia Edwards
Patricia A. Edwards, a member of the Reading Hall Fame is a Professor of Language and Literacy in the Department of Teacher Education, and a Senior University Outreach Fellow at Michigan State University. A nationally and internationally recognized expert in parent involvement, home, school, community partnerships, multicultural literacy, early literacy, and family/intergenerational literacy, especially among poor and minority children. She served as a member of the IRA Board of Directors from 1998–2001, and in 2006-2007 as the first African American President of the Literacy Research Association (formerly the National Reading Conference), and as President of the International Reading Association (2010-2011).
Elish Piper Laurie Laurie Elish-Piper
Laurie Elish-Piper is Acting Dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University.  She also holds the titles of Distinguished Teaching Professor and Presidential Engagement Professor in the Department of Literacy and Elementary Education.  Laurie’s research and teaching focus on literacy coaching and family engagement.  She has published and presented widely on literacy coaching at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  She also writes the Parents and Reading column for the Illinois Reading Council Journal.  Laurie is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Literacy Association.  Prior to her current position, Dr. Elish-Piper worked as a middle school reading and language arts teacher and an educational therapist in a clinical setting.
 elster jean alicia

Jean Alicia Elster
Formerly an attorney, Elster is the author of the novel The Colored Car—for ages 8 and older—published by Wayne State University Press and released in September 2013. The Colored Car was selected as a 2014 Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. Elster was awarded the 2014 Midwest Book Award in Children’s Fiction for The Colored Car by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. The Colored Car was chosen as an Honor Book for the 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People. Elster is, also, the author of the novel Who’s Jim Hines?—for ages 8 and older—published by Wayne State University Press. Released in August 2008, it is in its second printing. Who’s Jim Hines? was selected as one of the Library of Michigan’s 2009 Michigan Notable Books. In addition, the Michigan Reading Association placed Who’s Jim Hines? on the Great Lakes Great Books Award 2009-2010 ballot for grades 4-5. Who’s Jim Hines? was also a ForeWord Magazine 2008 Book of the Year Finalist in the category of Juvenile Fiction.

Faulkner Matt

Matt Faulkner
Matt Faulkner picture book, A TASTE OF COLORED WATER, was recently selected by SLJ for it's list of powerful books that encourage kids and parents to discuss diversity. The San Francisco Chronicle called his new graphic novel GAIJIN: AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR- "Superb!"

 Feber Jane

Jane Feber
Jane Feber taught language arts in Jacksonville, FL, for 36 years. Her innovative teaching style has won her many awards including the 2008 NMSA Distinguished Educator Award, 2006 NCTE Edwin A. Hoey Award, 2002 Gladys Prior Award for Teaching Excellence, and Duval County Teacher of the Year. She is the author of Creative Book Reports, Active Word Play, and Student Engagement is FUNdamental and is a contributing author of the 2012/2010 Prentice Hall literature series.  Jane presents at conferences across the country and is available for professional development in schools.

 Flake Sharon

Sharon Flake
Sharon G. Flake exploded onto the literary scene with her novel The Skin I'm In, in 1998, and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. Since then she has become a multiple Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award winner and has been hailed as the voice of middle-grade youth and a Rising Star by The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Many of Sharon’s novels have received ALA Notable and Best Books for Young Adults citations from the American Library Association. Her writing has been applauded for its on-point narrative that explores issues affecting teens from all walks of life. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Halperin Wendy Wendy Anderson Halperin
Wendy has illustrated over 30 Children's books. Her latest book Peace has inspired Drawing Children Into Peace. Join Wendy in TEACHING PEACE. She started drawing with 44 kindergarteners in 2006 and Drawing Children Into Reading began. Now over 16,000 children use drawing in K, 1st grade, and 2nd grade every year to develop fine motor skills, improved handwriting and stronger communication skills.
Hartman Bena Bena Hartman
Dr. Hartman was a former classroom teacher in Prince George's County Maryland and professor of literacy and learning at the University of South Florida and University of Pittsburgh. She has written several articles on the importance and use of African American children's literature and has published two children's books: Jasmine Can: Creating Self Confidence and September's Big Assignment.
 Henrickson Amy

Amy Henrickson
Amy Henrickson has had a life-long love affair with words, paper, and books.  Feeding her affection, she began writing in earnest during the summer of 2009 when she first attended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.  Since then, she has made the pilgrimage to Iowa every summer to commune with the writing tribe and has published three early reader chapter books about Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist:  Lucky Lottie,  Spotty Lottie, and Rocky Lottie (all available on and  She is currently working on book number four, Lakey Lottie as well as a novel for adults.  She has also written essays, short stories and poetry and has most recently had a poem, "Once,"  published in Imagine This:  An Artprize Anthology.  Ms. Hen bravely left her job as a school library supervisor to pursue writing full-time and is eager to connect with readers and other writers.

 hipp ryan

Ryan Hipp
Ryan Hipp is a published author/illustrator of books for kids from Grand Rapids, MI., honored by the MRA as recipient of the Gwen Frostic Award – for work greatly impacting literacy. Ryan is the leading expert in Michigan on fostering visual literacy and critical thinking; with 9 years experience and research in the field. He actively gives presentations to aid educators to inspire and motivate young people. Ryan is dedicated to helping kids achieve their goals and overcome life’s obstacles as depicted in his newest book LITTLE STEPS.

Kammeraad Kevin

Kevin Kammeraad
Kevin loves to perform, write, draw, sing, and wonder about possibilities. He is an artist, performer, and children's author of many books and CDs. Each year he visit schools, libraries, festivals, and conferences to share his passion for creativity. Kevin was recently voted the 2015 Best Local Visual Artist in the Grand Rapids On-the-Town Magazine.  He and his family live in Grand Rapids, MI.

Kent Troy Troy Kent
A graduate of Acadia University, Troy Kent has been a high school English teacher for over twenty years. Although new to the writing scene, his first book, The Reading Promise, recently won a 2015 New Apple Literary Award, a 2015 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, a 2015 USA Best Book Award, a 2015 National Indie Excellence Award, a 2015 BookChoice4U Book Award (England), and a 2015 Mom's Choice Award (Gold). It also won the award for the best children’s book as well as the top, overall book of the 2015 New England Book Festival.  He has already published a second book, Stinky Blinky, and his third book is coming out soon. A father of five, Troy also enjoys coaching high school football.
 miller donalyn Donalyn Miller
Donalyn Miller taught fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Northeast Texas. She is the author of many books and articles about engaging children with reading, including The Book Whisperer (2009) and Reading in the Wild (2013). Donalyn co-facilitates the community blog, The Nerdy Book Club and co-hosts the monthly Twitter chats, #titletalk and #bproots.
Moore Cyd

Cyd Moore
Cyd Moore lights sparks wherever she goes. With over 50 books published, the best selling I LOVE YOU STINKY FACE, is even optioned for a movie. (Watch for 2 new STINKY FACE books Spring 2016!) A dynamic speaker & storyteller, she is a favorite at conferences, libraries & schools. Her positive enthusiasm inspires gasps & giggles, creative thinking, and a love of story & art.

Mooy John John Mooy
John Mooy is a writer, sculptor, storyteller, and a lifelong baseball fan.  His ability to create and tell a story has led him from the classroom, to the corporate boardroom to the courtroom.  One of his most creative ideas has resulted in the creation of the Living Baseball Card.
Newman Mark

Mark Newman
Writer Mark Newman collaborated with Mark Heckman on a wide variety of projects over the course of 20-plus years. As an editor and photojournalist, he works with the Grand Rapids Griffins and West Michigan Whitecaps, the minor league affiliates of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, as well as serving as a communications specialist for corporations in a wide variety of industries. He began his career as a daily newspaper reporter, covering sports and entertainment.

 Nobleman Marc Tyler

Marc Tyler Nobleman
Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman and Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, plus books NOT about superheroes. He travels the country to speak at schools, conferences, and various other venues. On his blog, he reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of his books, from uplifting research moments to unconventional promotional efforts.

Parks Marquin Marquin Parks
Marquin Parks is an author and educator from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Shortly after participating in the Eastern Michigan Writing Project, Marquin's debut novel for his Wrinkles Wallace series was released. Marquin provides consultation services to classrooms ranging from elementary and major universities, to non-traditional learning environments. He lives and writes in Southeastern Michigan.
Rebbeck Barbara Barbara Rebbeck
Barbara J. Rebbeck holds degrees from Eastern Michigan University and Oakland University. She taught English and French for twenty-five years before accepting a position at the Oakland ISD as Director of the Oakland Writing Project. Retired now, she has published poetry, essays, and professional articles, and in 2015 published her first YA novel, NOLA Gals.
remenar kristen

Kristen Remenar
Kristen is a children's librarian, author, teacher, and national speaker on literacy. Her first picture book Groundhog's Dilemma, comes out December 1st, 2015. Kristen is married to Matt Faulkner and lives in Michigan with their three children. 


Gary Schmidt

Gary D. Schmidt is the author of The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, both of which won Newbery Honors, and of Okay for Now, a National Book Award finalist. His latest novel is Orbiting Jupiter; his latest picture book is A Rose in the Desert:  The Story of St. Martin de Porres.  He teaches creative writing at both Calvin College and Hamline University.

 Scillian Devin

Devin Scillian
Whether he's reading from his award-winning children's books at the White House, reporting via satellite from the other side of the world, or on stage performing his own brand of country music, Devin Scillian loves nothing better than telling a story. Children, parents, and teachers know Devin as a best-selling author. Country music fans from Oklahoma to Denmark know him as a talented singer and songwriter. Television viewers in Michigan and Canada know him as their nightly news anchor. On the page, on disc, or on the air, Devin has a tale to tell.

 Taylor Lori Lori Taylor
Lori Taylor is an author/illustrator of several children's books, and has been artist-in-residence for Michigan state and national parks, the Literacy Legacy Fund of MI, and is a graphic artist of science exhibits. Lori's HOLLY WILD middle grade, realistic fiction series makes learning Michiga's science, myth, history, and natural history a hooting fun time that keep kids laughing and learning.