Pediatrician, Blank Children’s Hospital and
Adjunct Professor, Des Moines University
Amy Shriver, MD, is a general pediatrician at Blank Children’s Pediatric Clinic and an Assistant Professor of Specialty Medicine at Des Moines University. She is the Medical Director of the statewide nonprofit Reach Out and Read Iowa, which partners with pediatric primary care providers to give books and shared reading guidance to children and families at health maintenance visits.
Dr. Shriver teaches and practices child advocacy across the state. She is the co-director of the Iowa Pediatric Resident Advocacy Education Collaborative. She is on the executive board for the Council on Early Childhood as well as the Iowa AAP executive board and legislative committee. She heads the chapter’s mental health committee and is the Iowa Chapter CATCH grant facilitator.
Dr. Shriver’s clinical and advocacy focus is on early child brain development and the prevention and mitigation of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES. She collaborates both across the state and nationally with organizations such as Iowa ACES 360, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Early Childhood, and the Center for Youth Wellness to promote improved screening, early identification, and treatment and referral for families experiencing toxic stress.
Dr. Shriver supports early childhood education through her collaboration with the Iowa Association for the Education of the Young Child. She was awarded the 2018 IAEYC Child Champion Award. She is on the IAEYC Play Leadership Group.
Pediatrician, MercyOne Ankeny Pediatrics
Kandace Bass, MD, is a general pediatrician who works for MercyOne Clinics in Ankeny, Iowa. She
completed her pediatric residency at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, MO.
Kandace moved to the Des Moines area in July 2016. She is the medical consultant for the Mercy Central Clinic Reach Out and Read program. Kandace is a strong believer in the importance of
reading to children to promote their brain development. Kandace and her husband Peter love to read. While she does not yet have children of her own, Dr. Bass enjoys reading to her nieces and nephews.
Ashley Hunt is a Partner and Senior Account Executive at LS2group, a nonpartisan public affairs, public relations, government relations firm in Des Moines' East Village. At LS2group, Ashley specializes in issue advocacy, social media, and event management. Outside of her full-time job, Ashley enjoys volunteering for various political and charitable organizations, including Dance Without Limits, a dance program for children with special needs, and 5050 in 2020, an organization dedicated to helping women run for office. In her free time, Ashley enjoys attending Ballet Des Moines performances, shows at the Civic Center Des Moines, exploring Des Moines with her dog, and reading as much as she can.
Mercy College of Health Science, Des Moines, Iowa
Jennie Ver Steeg is the Director of Library and Media Services at Mercy College of Health Sciences. Jennie holds a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa, an MA in English and an MS in Child Development from Iowa State University. Before librarianship, Jennie taught Composition at ISU and DMACC, and was the Writing Specialist at the University of Northern Iowa, as well as a test prep tutor, security guard, test kitchen assistant, and proofreader. As an undergraduate she had an internship in the Child Life department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her library career began as the director of the West Liberty Public Library. She was most recently employed as Library Director at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City. She lives in a "Beaverdale brick" in Des Moines, with three cats who allow her to continue living there.
Instructor, Education and Literacy
Grand View University, Des Moines, Iowa
In addition to being an instructor at Grand View University, Debra is also a doctoral candidate at Iowa State University. Her research interests are socially-based writing instruction, intermediate and middle school reading comprehension, inquiry-based instruction, and engagement and motivation in literacy education. Debra received a BA from Grand View University in Human Services and a M.ED. from Iowa State University with a literacy emphasis. She also received her elementary education teaching certificate from the University of Pittsburgh and holds endorsements in reading and science and a certificate in special education and has been a public-school classroom teacher for the past 21 years. She has taught in Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Iowa, with experience teaching preschool through 8th grade, and a majority of those years in 4th and 7th grade. Debra loves to read, travel, walk, listen to true crime pod casts, and spend time with her four grown kids, her husband, and her fur family (2 cats and a tripawd puppy named Auggie). She is passionate about public education, equity of education, ensuring all kids have access to quality text, and animal rights
Molly works with Iowa Reach Out and Read programs to bring our early literacy program to hundreds of children and families, providing technical assistance, training, and other support. In addition, she works to provide fundraising support and guidance to Iowa sites and the coalition through grants, sponsorships, events, and other fundraising partnerships. She also manages the all-volunteer board, social media, communications, and various projects the coalition is working on. Before joining Reach Out and Read Iowa, Molly worked for 14 years as the Community Relations Manager for Barnes and Noble in which she successfully developed and executed results-oriented, community relations programs. In her professional roles, Ms.Topf has cultivated and maintained positive relationships with educational, literacy, literary, cultural, and arts organizations in the central Iowa area, executed and managed events, managed scheduling, budgeting, team-building, training, staff development, and been the media and public relations liaison. She is an member of St. Augustin's parish where she leads the Little Flower's Girls Club, and a Home & School volunteer at St. Augustin school. In her spare time, Molly enjoys creative projects, gardening, reading, exploring new places, and most of all, spending time with her family.
At-Risk Youth Advocate, Belmond With a degree in Criminology from the University of Northern Iowa, Abigail (Abi) Aswegen has dedicated much of her career to helping at risk youth in a variety of settings - domestic violence shelters, foster homes, juvenile detention centers, etc. As a current stay-at-home-wilderness wife-and-mom, she continues to advocate for the needs of at-risk youth as a foster/adoptive mom and as a volunteer coordinator for Reach Out and Read Iowa's Facebook page.
Higher Education & Social Policy Consultant, Des Moines, Iowa
Lizzie is a native of Des Moines, with a degree in German and International Business from the University of
Iowa, and an MS in Education from Northwestern University with a focus on higher education administration and social policy. She began her career in finance in Boston, MA and has worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in the executive program. Her research is published with the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning at Northwestern. Lizzie worked as the associate director for career advising at the Thunderbird Graduate program, prior to it becoming part of Arizona State University. Lizzie is married to Matt, an Englishman, and for the past 8 years has focused her time on raising their two sons, Finley and
Ellen is currently the Vice President of Finance for SHYFT Collective. Their mission is to provide integrated real estate, design, and construction services that help people and organizations navigate real estate change with confidence. Her role is to help lead the company as part of their core leadership team. Her responsibilities include everything within their accounting records, financial planning and analysis, along with HR and office management duties. She has been with SHYFT for about 4 years. Prior to that, she worked for XPO Logistics (formerly Jacobson Transportation and Logistics) for about 8 years. Her first position after college was with Deloitte & Touche, where she earned her CPA license (now in inactive status). Ellen graduated from Drake University in Accounting and International Business. She is originally from Dubuque, Iowa, and moved to Des Moines to attend Drake. Ellen lives in Urbandale. with her husband and three children: a 6 year and 4 year old sons, and a 2 year old daughter. One of her favorite parenting moments is listening to her 6 year old read to his younger siblings.
Public Education Advocate
Shanda Carstens is a 4th generation Iowan who is passionate about all things Iowa, in particular,
public education. Shanda has been married to Matt for over 20 years. They have three children,
Claire, Camden and Carolyne. Shanda spends the majority of her time on the volunteer leadership
team for Parents for Great Iowa Schools, a statewide parent advocacy group. Shanda also was a founder and co-chair for the Johnston Legislative Action Committee. This committee is parent led and advocates at the Capitol for the needs of Johnston Schools. Recently her family relocated from Johnston back to their hometown of Panora where she looks forward to getting involved with the community. In her spare time, she loves to go boating and spend time with family and friends.
Dan Chibnall received his Masters in Library & Information Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2005. Since moving to Iowa in the fall of 2005 he served as the User Services & Instruction Design Librarian at Grand View University from 2006-2016. In the summer of 2016, he began serving as the STEM Librarian at Drake University where he teaches courses on science literacy and information literacy and works closely with students and faculty on research projects and course development. Dan also currently serves as the Past-President of the Iowa Library Association, where he has served on the board since 2015. In his free time, Dan enjoys traveling the world with his wife Alison, hiking trails around the state of Iowa, being a science & astronomy advocate to kids, cooking, playing chess, and cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals.
Amber Gustafson is a mom of three from Ankeny Iowa and a passionate lifelong reader and learner. As a born and raised farm kid, books opened the world to Amber who spent many hours outdoors reading to the cats and dogs on the farm. Amber was a first generation college student and graduated from Iowa State University in
1999 in the first class of Christina Hixson Opportunity Award winners. Amber has
worked and volunteered in educational spaces from preschool to higher education including early three years as an admissions and academic advisor at the Universityof Missouri-Columbia. Amber became active in social justice issues in 2013 after theSandy Hook School Shooting, at a time when her own children were in elementary school. As one of the founding members of the Iowa Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, she has worked for a state and nation free of gun violence, serving as Iowa Chapter Leader for nearly two years. In 2018, she ran an historic race for Iowa Senate but fell just short of winning. Since that time she has broadened her platform to continue to speak out about issues she is most passionate about while pursuing her Master of Arts in Communication, Public Policy & Advocacy at Drake University.
Favorite Children’s Book: Charlotte’s Web
Client Development Director, RDG Planning & Design, Des Moines, Iowa Susan Judkins is a Vinton native, Clive city council member, community developer and water resources advocate who serves as the Client Development Director RDG Planning & Design. She has promoted education and leadership development for youth and adults through volunteer work with libraries, service on the Indianola School Board, chairing the Leadership Iowa Board of Governors, founding the Warren County Leadership Institute, and leading Junior Achievement education modules in elementary classrooms in Indianola and Des Moines.
Retired - United Way of Central Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa Debbie Thornton: Debbie graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. After graduation she worked for LOOK Magazine and KCBC Radio and later moved to the nonprofit sector. She served as Executive Director of the Iowa Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She then spent 17 years at United Way, serving in a variety of capacities in administration, campaign and allocations. She is a past president of the Junior League and has served on a number of boards, including HCI Care Services (formerly Hospice of Central Iowa), PEO and the Terrace Hill Society Foundation. Debbie has been married to Jerry for 49 years and has two adult daughters and five granddaughters.