About Kids Read Now

Kids Read Now is a non-profit organization with a singular mission: to eliminate learning loss for K-5 students.

Kids Read Now partners with school districts to implement and manage summer and year-round reading programs that help kids maintain and improve their reading skills.

Our Goals + Mission

We help fulfill academic dreams by transforming your summer reading program and illuminating young minds.Our mission at Kids Read Now is to help fulfill the academic dreams of youngsters and their parents by helping raise literacy among students in kindergarten through the third grade.

We work hard every day to give our customers the best programs to engage parents and keep kids growing during the summers, to keep them from falling victim to the summer slide. We also provide enrollment, participation, and satisfaction statistics in a real-time data portal that every parent and educator can access. In the fall, we analyze our students’ reading scores to see if they did better than non-participants.

At the heart of every academic dream is the ability to read. At Kids Read Now, we help fulfill those dreams.

Stop and reverse the summer reading slide.

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Meet Our Team

We Fulfill Academic Dreams

Executive Team

Leib Lurie

CEO & Co-Founder

Leib and his wife, Barb, wanted to address the sad fact that just 34% of fourth graders are proficient readers, and in poor, black, and brown communities that number is less than 29%. Creating a nationwide, scalable, affordable, evidence-based, program that can serve every family in America was their goal in creating Kids Read Now. Leib’s literacy roots run deep as his mother started a preschool neighborhood program in 1958 that grew to become a proven program used as basis for Head Start. Leib is a serial entrepreneur. His prior firm, One Call Now, served 7,000 schools and districts, as well as tens of thousands of community and youth organizations, and Kids Read Now was built on the foundations of outreach to parents.

Barb Lurie

Co-Founder

Barb began her post-secondary education as a classical piano major. After completing her Bachelor’s in Music, she completed her Master’s in Piano Pedagogy and Music Theory. Then she returned to college again and was certified as a classroom teacher, 1-8.  Earning endorsements for Teaching Gifted Children K-12 and Teaching Reading K-12, she taught for many years in a variety of settings including classroom (predominately reading/social studies), reading pull-out, and gifted pull-out.  

After “retiring” from teaching, she became the third Executive Director of Kids Read Now. She leads the Kids Read Now Book Selection Council and uses her years of teaching experience to ensure children will have the best books to read over the summer. Barb also uses schematic theory to develop each book’s Discovery Sheet for maximum kid and parent engagement.

In her spare time, she loves creating stained glass art, quilting, gardening, knitting, reading, and playing the piano. She enjoys spending time and travelling with her family.

Randy Weddle

Chief Operating Officer

Over the course of his career, Randy has more than 30 years of experience in management, training, project management, strategic planning, and operations. This includes 5 years with AT&T, managing a large midwestern call center, and a start up computer cabling business.

Kids Read Now is a company whose mission and values align with Randy’s own, making this a perfect fit for him at this time in his career. He joined the organization on October 8, 2018 as the Director of Client Success. Later, in September of 2021, he took on the role of Chief Operating Officer. His goal is to continue scaling the company, enrolling more schools in the program and getting more books in the hands of children.

Randy received an MBA in 2011 from Urbana University. Over the last 10 years he has taught business courses at a local university. He and his wife Jackie have lived in Vandalia and Butler Township, Ohio for more than 35 years.

Outreach & Marketing

Glen Miller

Sr. Director of Outreach

Glen’s story starts in the woods as a camper. He continued to camp counselor, education major, Bachelor of Arts in Education, teacher, Camp Director, Master’s degree in Education Leadership, more Camp Director, more teaching, and finally literacy enthusiast as National Outreach Director with Kids Read Now. Glen has dedicated the last 40 years to serving kids, in the great outdoors and in classrooms. Seeing the disparity from one group of people to another during that time reinforced his drive to even the playing field and amplified his dedication to the mission of Kids Read Now. Glen’s story began sharing nature with kids, where all are on equal footing. He believes that literacy is the means for making that happen outside of the woods. In his spare time, he enjoys wildlife photography and playing music with his band.  

Mike Straka

National Outreach Director

Mike was born and raised in the southwest side of Chicago but has migrated south to have more quality time with children and grandchildren. This migration included an eastward journey to Ohio for 18 years and then down to Kentucky and finally Florida. His father worked at Rand McNally so as a child he had a personal library that consisted of three sets of encyclopedias, Lincoln Library of Essential Information, and about 500 books. He has been married for 38 years with three children and ten grandchildren. Mike is a Marine veteran and worked in the police field for seven years, five years as Military Police. He spent 30 years in the office automation field with 14 years in personal sales and 16 years in leadership roles. His favorite pastime is playing disc golf, which he describes as a nice walk ruined by colorful discs. Mike has been with Kids Read Now since 2019 and strives to bring reading help to the kids that need to most assistance.

Casey Wente

Outreach Specialist

Casey has been with Kids Read Now since we were a room within another company housing books in a loft warehouse, and she thinks it’s been exhilarating to be part of the incredible growth that KRN has achieved. Never before has she felt like a part of the solution, working closely with a group of people who are truly passionate about moving the K-5 literacy needle. As an Outreach Specialist, Casey acts almost as a mortar between departments, adding research, communicating needs and ideas, and assisting wherever there is a lose end to tie up! She thinks the best part about working at Kids Read Now is knowing that she is helping make a difference in the lives of families. A fun fact about Casey is she knows a very little bit about a very large amount of “things” and loves to pepper her friends with random knowledge. She has a great love for nature and ecosystems and strives to learn as much as possible about my environment.

Josh Lurie

Outreach Specialist

As one of the Kids Read Now outreach specialists, Josh helps to introduce the program to schools that are in need of a reading program for their students over the summer, and helps keep the teachers, parents and students engaged. Josh has a degree in business management and an associate degree in music education. Josh is a self-proclaimed coin nerd. He inherited his grandfather’s collection and has more than tripled the collection during the pandemic.

Kim Haskins

Outreach Specialist

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Chad Svendson

Outreach Specialist

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

Christina Brownlee

Marketing Director

It feels pretty good having national children’s literacy as a goal every day and knowing our programs bring us closer to it every year. Christina loves to paint, read, travel, and play with her pups, Parker & Boo. She also loves teaching part time at a local college.

Rachel Benedict

Community Engagement Manager

Rachel has always been a reader – in fact, her first job was in a library! Growing up surrounded by books ignited her passion for literacy and her history volunteering with Special Olympics Indiana and local community organizations solidified her need to improve communities, especially for kids.  She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with her bachelor’s in Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2014, and her Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Community Development in 2017. She joined the Kids Read Now team in 2018 and manages our social media, Latest in Literacy blog, and helps involve communities in their schools’ reading initiatives. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, tending to her garden, chilling with her chickens, working out, playing piano, coaching baseball, and reading.

Emily Randall

Client Success Manager

Emily has been a vital member of the Kids Read Now team since 2016. Her role as Client Success Manager allows her to build relationships with educators and parents to help ensure students across the country are delivered their self-selected books throughout the summer. She is finishing her degree through the Patton College of Education at Ohio University in Customer Service Leadership. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering with her local after school reading program and serving as a lunch buddy for elementary students. She loves to craft (scrapbooking, crocheting, etc.) and travel with her husband and friends.

Sheila Schurman

Account Manager

One of Sheila’s best childhood memories is going to the library at the end of the school year and signing up for their summer reading program. She would read as many books as possible in order to receive a stamp or a sticker on her reading chart.  Knowing that she was one of the top readers every summer at our local library was a great accomplishment! As a Client Success Account Manager, she loves working with our existing accounts in continuing to provide their students with access to books over the summer.  Reading played a large part in her own childhood and having the opportunity to help other children read is a true joy for Sheila.

Tech & Logistics

Randall Harbour

Systems Specialist & Data Analyst

Randall has been with Kids Read Now since the summer of 2017. He graduated from Ohio University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Business Analytics. His hobbies include camping, bike riding, cooking, and of course reading. His roles at Kids Read Now focus on supporting other departments in the implementation of the reading programs. Information technology is the foundation of most of KRN’s business processes, supporting our book mailing, parental engagement, client onboarding, and more. Data analysis is essential not only to making informed business decisions and process improvements, but also evaluating the impact of our program on students’ reading abilities.

Jackie Weddle

Zoho Implementation Specialist

Jackie specializes in building the framework and providing training to key staff for Zoho modules and applications. She’s always coming up with creative ways to improve KRN’s existing Zoho processes and applications. She works closely with the Fulfillment Center team to ensure the inventory system has accurate inventory data. She also works with the HR and Management staff to setup and maintain staffing requirements in Zoho People & Shifts. Jackie evaluates current data across different systems and generate reports to help managers and staff work more efficiently. Outside of work, Jackie is a very active person and likes to keep busy. She enjoys pickleball, disc golf, hiking, biking, and spending time with family.

Bonnie Lurie

Purchasing and Inventory Control Manager

Bonnie works to select and procure all the books that get shipped to our students. She then helps ensure the delivery and shipment of books to the hands of students. Bonnie has a bachelor’s in theater from New Mexico State where she studied many aspects of theater, including script and story analysis. She has been working with children in some aspect for over 10 years. Bonnie is a Disney Goofy aficionado and fanatic.

Jim McDonald

Fulfillment Center Manager

Jim is an extrovert who loves spending time with his family and friends. When he’s not hanging out with his crew, you might find him watching sports or doing a woodworking project. Jim is a proud father to two sons. His oldest is on his way to college and his youngest will be a junior and playing soccer in high school. Jim has been with Kids Read Now since 2019. He has a professional background in Inventory/Personnel Management. Being someone that struggled with reading and comprehension growing up, he understands the importance of improving children’s reading comprehension every day. Working for an organization that is helping improve kids’ ability to sit and enjoy a book and make themselves better, that is something that makes him want go to work. 

Human Resources & Finance

Joy Plunkett

Director of Human Resources

Joy’s child’s reading challenge early in life along with her life-long love of books prompted her to volunteer as a reading partner during the first summer reading camp hosted by KRN. Students began the summer recognizing only a handful of words but quickly became fluent readers. A new generation of literacy lovers was born! From this camp, the current data-driven, in-home summer reading program was developed by Barbara and Leib Lurie and is growing nationwide today. Joy is honored to bring her years of experience in business/human capital management to the organization to direct all aspects of HR operations and contribute to its strategic direction. The passion for the organization’s mission by this team is unsurpassed in any organization she’s worked. When she’s not reading, you’ll find her with her husband, children, grandchildren, and fur babies. She also enjoys traveling, gardening, solving true crime mysteries, writing, and creating new recipes.

Alicia Hatcher

Comptroller

An Associate Principal with MLA, Alicia leads our Accounting Support Team as the Controller for Kids Read Now.  Specializing in helping startups establish a financial grounding, Alicia’s experience positions her to provide management, payroll, budgeting, forecasting, and staff development for MLA clients. Alicia joined the MLA team in 2016, providing clients with transactional accounting and analysis, and working capital management. While she has done accounting work in several industries, including construction, music education, retail, and service, she has also managed customer relations, accounting, budgeting, and forecasting functions. As an accounting administrator with Armcorp Construction in Celina, Ohio, she was responsible for accounts receivable and payable, payroll, and communication with all the company’s vendors and customers. She also served as a staff accountant for Piqua Steel Company, assisting all account payable functions, monthly and quarterly taxes, and overseeing the cash flow analysis for management. Other work experience includes employee training, inventory control, payroll, preparing schedules and customer service.

 


A special thanks to our Board

Dr. Paul Von Hippel

Paul is an associate professor of public policy, sociology, statistics and data science at the University of Texas in Austin, known for his work on summer learning, summer weight gain, research design, replicability of research, and missing data.

He works on evidence-based policy, education and inequality, and the obesity epidemic. He has won three best article awards for his work on education and obesity, as well as the 2019 Leo Goodman Award for contributions to statistical methods within 15 years of receiving a PhD.

Before his academic career, he worked as a data scientist, using predictive analytics to help banks prevent fraud. He holds degrees in statistics and sociology from Ohio State University, as well as degrees in music from Yale and Stanford. He still plays jazz piano.

Dr. Glen Keifer

NY Native with decades of K-12 school administration experience and as retired superintendent for Troy City Schools, Glenn understands the complex relationships between staff, teachers, parents, students, and the community. He has his doctorate from The Ohio State University and has been an adjunct professor at OSU.

He and his wife Becky live in Cincinnati and Florida, but still bleeds Scarlet and Grey.

Joshua Walsh​

Josh is owner of Walsh LLC, a business consultancy focused on digital marketing technology and software development. Prior to teaming up with Kids Read Now, John was Editor-in-Chief at Jazz-Library, an educational publication in the music industry focused on developing performance techniques for jazz improvisation.

He was also the CEO at The Refinery, a software development and marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH, a company that partners with national brand customers throughout the United States. His interest in The Refinery was acquired in 2021.
As KRN’s Independent Strategic Advisor, Josh is a trusted strategic counselor to our marketing executives. Building upon his experience as CEO of The Refinery, Josh provides expertise in digital marketing and vendor selection.

Jonathan Trunk

After graduating from Miami University in 2006, Jonathan spent several years in Chicago working in the commodities markets before moving back to Cincinnati, OH. During his 10 years at Ft. Washington Investment Advisors, Inc., Jonathan led large teams and projects associated with the rapid growth, acquisitions, regulatory changes, and complex transactional activity. 

When he left, Ft. Washington was managing over $47 billion across equity, private equity and fixed income strategies and leveraging many of the tools, teams and strategies Jonathan developed. 

In an effort to apply these principles across different industries, Jonathan relocated to Dayton, OH and joined Brixey & Meyer in 2016, where he now leads a team of high-performing business consultants.  They focus on operational excellence, technology strategy and strategic planning for companies ranging from Fortune 500 to pre-revenue startups.

Robert Bensman

Since 1976, Bob has been leading Microtell Management Services Inc. Formerly Ver-A-Fast Corporation, this privately held management, marketing, and consulting firm focuses on helping startup businesses launch new products and services. His team has more than 40 years of successful experience within the publishing, telecommunications, and consumer products industries, serving hundreds of clients. 

Bob invented and patented the original TeleZapper back in 2000. It was created as a physical device that millions of consumers used to reduce the number of Telemarketing phone calls specifically to their analog home phones. 

He is delighted to share his expertise with the Board members of KRN.

Amanda Close

As SVP for Digital Marketplace Development, Amanda provides strategic business development, including e-book channel development, scaled marketing programs, ecommerce, partnerships, marketing platforms, analytics, tools, and training.

A graduate of Harvard University and the Stern School of Business, Amanda has also held positions of responsibility for Crown Publishing Group, Bertelsmann, Solomon Smith Barney, and Zefer/ Waite & Company.

Todd Imwalle

An experienced Vice President of Sales in the technology and construction spaces, Todd brings to the KRN Board his analytical skills, coaching expertise, as well as his vast experiences in government, event management, and team building. He is a strong sales professional with a Bachelor of Science (BS) focused in COM, MGT from University of Dayton. 

Passionate about literacy, Todd is motivated by facts: 75% of disadvantaged children are not proficient in reading when they start fourth grade, and most will never catch up. In fact, the summer reading slide is responsible for 65% of the learning gap between rich and poor.

Minority male students who are a year or more behind their peers in their reading level have a higher likelihood of dropping out of school or serving jail time. Economic prosperity requires that we teach our children to read and reverse the summer slide. Todd’s desire to see these numbers change drives his work with KRN.

Mary McCaffery

A lifelong proponent of learning for all ages, Mary is the Director for Kids Read Now because its mission is to enhance reading skills and increase the likelihood of success for children in primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.

In her career, Mary led teams at Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University, enabling technology solutions for students, faculty, and administrators.

Her executive roles at Apple, Carnegie Learning, Pearson, and School Center focused on developing products and services that engaged students, teachers, and parents in the K-12 educational experience, and created opportunities for students to flourish.

After completing a law degree in the early 2000s, Mary worked with her civil rights clients in fighting for their rights. As a tax professional, Mary also teaches her clients, how to work with the IRS framework, and how to help themselves.

Mary is currently pursuing a master’s degree from the Catholic Distance University, and takes courses on Coursera to continue her own lifelong pursuit of learning.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew is Professor of Literacy Instruction and Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He specializes in literacy instruction, RTI for reading and writing, strategies for the inclusive classroom, and advanced pedagogy. After teaching in the classroom for 9 years, he received his PhD from the University of Minnesota in Literacy Instruction.

He is the author of 14 books and numerous book chapters and academic articles related to literacy, learning, and the human condition. He is also the host of the podcast, The Reading Instruction Show.

Non-Profit Documentation

Our respect is all-inclusive

Kids Read Now is committed to providing an environment of mutual respect which embraces our individual uniqueness, talents, and differences. Our goal is to provide a diverse, inclusive organization representative of the students and families we serve.

Kids Read Now provides equal opportunities to all employees, volunteers, board members, and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, military or veteran status, genetic information, and any other characteristic protected by applicable law. In addition to federal law requirements, Kids Read Now complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which our organization operates, serves, or has facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.

Kids Read Now expressly prohibits any form of workplace harassment or retaliation.

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