Who We Are

We believe that reading is a civil right and that all families deserve free access to science aligned literacy materials.

Author and Founder:

Dr. Katie Spurlock served on the Maryland State Task Force to Study the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program. She wrote and successfully advocated for legislation to benefit struggling readers and wrote about reading and equity for Answer Sheet and The Washington Post Magazine.  (Pdf here for those without Washington Post accounts.) She created Open Source Phonics, a comprehensive and free set of materials that tutors and families can use to support their children in mastering phonics and that other writers can build on to create more materials that can be shared with a Creative Commons copyright. She hopes that in the future schools and communities will direct more funds toward training and employing tutors and educating parents. She has a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Virginia and has taught high school English in Westchester County, NY.

Steering Committee of Scholars and Community Experts:

Dr. Ayanna Baccus is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park.  She serves as the director of the University of Maryland Summer Reading Clinic, which prepares teachers to become reading specialists and provides supplemental reading instruction to children. She also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in reading education. Dr. Baccus is a certified reading specialist and has taught at the elementary, secondary, and university levels.

Dr. Donald (DJ) Bolger is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology where he co-directs the Maryland Initiative for Literacy & Equity and directs the Laboratory for the Neurodevelopment of Reading and Language. For over 20 years, Dr. Bolger has studied reading and language achievement with typically developing children as well as those with learning disabilities including dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder using behavioral and functional neuroimaging methods.  His research also extends to the role of executive functioning and working memory in learning and the intersection of language and math development. Dr. Bolger has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center.

Dr. Emily Binks Cantrell is a Clinical Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning, & Culture at Texas A & M University. Her research focus is teacher knowledge of and preparation in the science of reading. She is on the Board of Directors for the Center for Effective Reading Instruction, is an Associate Editor for The Reading League Journal, and serves on the Editorial Board of Annals of Dyslexia and Education Sciences.

Dr. Simone Gibson is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Professional Development at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD where she co-directs the Maryland Initiative for Literacy & Equity.   Dr. Gibson’s major research interests are the preparation of Black pre-service teachers to address issues of literacy and equity. Preparation emphasizes training through the science of reading with an emphasis on the integration of students’ dialectical exposures. Additionally, she studies the non-dominant literacy strengths of k-12 learners from historically marginalized communities.

Dr. Paul von Hippel is Professor and Associate Dean of Research at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin. His research is cited over 1300 times per year and increasingly focuses on the challenge of translating the science of learning into effective policy, curriculum, and technology. In addition to his academic research, he published children’s books under the pen name Paul Pineapple, and he plans to use Open Source Phonics to help authors write more systematic and entertaining decodable books.

Byron Johns is Vice President of American Systems. In addition to his professional career, Mr. Johns has been known for more than a decade as a leading advocate for equity in Montgomery County, Maryland. He currently serves as Education Chair of the Montgomery County NAACP and Chair of the Parents’ Council, which recruits and leads Representatives in each of the 209 schools in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to ensure that Black and other minority students have equal educational opportunities in the district. He has expanded access to higher education by establishing College Fairs with HBCUs and, more recently, with fairs for minority honor roll students and highly selective colleges. With Diego Uriburu, he is co-founder of the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence. During the pandemic, Mr. Johns led the formation of the Educational Equity Hubs, a public/private partnership working with the Montgomery County Public Schools, private childcare providers, and public and private funders to create safe, supervised, in-person learning facilities for low-income children in order to make virtual learning during the Covid-19 pandemic more effective. This model was later adapted when schools experienced rolling quarantines after re-opening. In 2019, Mr. Johns received an award for Distinguished Service to Education in Montgomery County by MCPS’s Board of Education.

Dr. R. Malatesha Joshi is the Regents Professor of Literacy Education and Educational Psychology in the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A & M University and the Editor of Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal. He has received many national and international awards suchs as Erasmus Mundus fellowship from Germany and Samuel and June Orton Award from the International Dyslexia Association. He is a fellow of the American Educational Research Association and has been elected to the Reading Hall of Fame.

Dr. Louisa Moats is a nationally recognized authority on how children learn to read and why some children fail to learn. She is the author of Speech to Print: Language Essentials for Teachers, and she developed LETRS, the landmark professional development program for teachers and reading specialists. For many decades, Dr. Moats has led the charge for the need for effective teacher training regarding reading, and most recently authored the Idaho Dyslexia Handbook for her home state of Idaho.

Dr. Shawaan Robinson is the Principal of Briggs Chaney Middle School in Silver Spring, MD and home of the Bears. Her vision simply states Believe in Equity, Access, and Relationships for all Students! Her work is deeply rooted in her core values of equity, shared leadership, student centered learning, and relationship building. Dr. Robinson has been an educator for 29 years and has served as an elementary and middle school teacher, elementary and middle school counselor, pupil personnel worker, as well as assistant principal and principal. She is also an adjunct professor at McDaniel College in Western Maryland where she teaches Leadership for Equity and Excellence. Dr. Robinson served as president of the Montgomery County Alliance of Black School Educators from 2018-2020 and now serves as an at-large member of the board.

Laura Schultz is a co-founder of Decoding Dyslexia (founded in 2012). Decoding Dyslexia is part of  a parent-led nationwide network of advocates concerned about reading instruction. As a state leader of Decoding Dyslexia Maryland, she helped to establish fifteen local and regional chapters. A frequent speaker, she has advised thousands of parents in Maryland and beyond about best solutions for students’ reading problems. In 2015 she served on the Task Force to Study the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program and helped author the Task Force Report. In 2019, she cowrote and advocated for the successful passage of the Ready to Read Act and then worked with the Maryland State Department of Education to implement the law. She also served a term on the Family Engagement Advisory Board with the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL) and is a partner with the St. Mary’s County Public Schools and NCIL to establish the Maryland Beacon Site Reading Screening project. Ms. Schultz now serves on the Advisory Board for The Reading League of Maryland.

Dr. Rona Schwartz has practiced family medicine for over 20 years and has practiced at Unity Health Care in Washington D.C. since 2010. She serves as the lead physician on Unity Health Care’s Preventitive Medicine Quality Improvement Team and is also the Medical Director at Columbia Road Health Services. Fortunate to have long relationships with the patients and families she serves, Dr. Schwartz is interested in all things that promote physical and mental health in families, enabling adults and children to thrive.

Diego Uriburu is a co-founder of Identity, Inc., a nonprofit founded in 1998 to help immigrant youth fleeing violence, natural disasters, and grinding poverty in Latin America. In 2014, the White House selected him as a César E. Chávez Champion of Change. Today, in pursuit of a just, equitable, and inclusive society, Identity creates opportunities for Latino and other historically underserved youth across Montgomery County to realize their highest potential to thrive. In 2019, Identity joined forces with the Montgomery County Chapter of the NAACP Parent’s Council to form the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence.

Legal Counsel:

Andrew Morton is a partner at Handler Thayer LLP and Chair of the firm’s Sports & Entertainment Law Group, serving a client base of professional athletes, Olympians, artists, entertainers, and other public figures who wish to maximize their social impact.  He serves on the Board of Managers of the University of Pennsylvania Law  School’s Law Alumni Society, as well as the Advisory Board for the Penn Law Public Service Program. For his extensive advocacy on behalf of nonprofit clients, the D.C. Bar Association honored Mr. Morton as Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year, and he also received the Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award from the Legal Aid Society. Penn Law recognized him with the Benjamin R. Jones Award for Law and Humanity, the Law School’s most prestigious public interest recognition.