The Friends Board is comprised of librarians, teachers, reading specialists, and retired professionals in the field of education. We are driven by our passion for children's literature and we support the CTCB as a public information and service group. We foster a community of children's literature educators and scholars who provide outreach activities and programs to support librarians and teachers. We help organize and assist with all the special events throughout the year. Enthusiastically, we promote the mission of the Center for Teaching through Children's Books. All persons interested in being Friends of the CTCB are welcome as members. We meet monthly during the school year.  

President:                                 Eti Berland

Vice-President:                        Elisa Gall

Secretary:                                Maureen O'Shea

Historian/Photographer:         Marilyn Crocker

Volunteer Coordinator:           Sue Conolly

SCBWI Liason                          Christina Moorehead

By-Laws Committee                Marilyn Crocker & Jacqui Kolar



Laura Beltchenko                   Betsy Bird

Karrie Fisher                          Patrick Gall

Lolly Gepson                         Annie Greengoss

Meg Pyterek                          Ruth Quiroa

Anny Rusk                             Janet Thompson

Brian Wilson Michelle Bourgeois

Lorrie Hansen Jen Daniels



Laura Beltchenko

Laura Beltchenko is a 34-year veteran educator.  Her career in public education includes classroom teacher, reading specialist, teacher and coordinator of gifted education programs as well as an associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Her study of children’s literature finds her developing thoughtful professional development for educators with the intent of addressing the literacy needs of young and diverse learners. She is a state and national consultant for the English Language Arts Common Core Standards. She is the past President of the Suburban Council of the International Reading Association, SCIRA and is currently the chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education Gifted Advisory Council. 

Eti Berland 

Eti Berland is the Head Librarian at Hebrew Theological College, where she teaches courses in Children’s Literature, Oral Interpretation of Literature and Storytelling, and Poetry. She is a recent graduate of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, specializing in youth services, school librarianship, and graphic novels and comics. She joined the Friends in 2013.

Betsy Bird

Betsy Bird is the Collection Development Manager of Evanston Public Library and the former Youth Materials Specialist of New York Public Library.  Betsy reviews for Kirkus and runs the children’s literature blog A Fuse #8 Production from the School Library Journal website.  She is the author of the picture book GIANT DANCE PARTY (2013) and co-author of WILD THINGS: ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE.  You can find Betsy at her website

Sue Conolly

Sue Conolly had lived half her life in her native Australia and half in Japan with her bicultural family when her family was transferred to Illinois in 2012. With a love of all things multilingual and multicultural, she is currently working on a Masters in Education (Teacher-Librarian) through Queensland University of Technology. Sue manages the international picture book collection maintained at CTCB, and is developing ways in which the collection will be of most relevance for educators and researchers.

Marilyn Crocker

After being an elementary school teacher and school librarian in Evanston for 34 years, Marilyn Edwards Crocker continues her deep appreciation for children's literature in retirement.  Being read to as a child was where the love of reading and books began.  Many years later this enjoyment was greatly expanded with understanding and insight provided by National Louis University where she received her Masters degree in Library and Instructional Media. 

Karrie Fisher

Karrie Fisher has been the librarian at Baker Demonstration School since 2008.  She has been a school librarian for 16 years, and loves every minute of working with children. She is currently serving on the Illinois Student Choice Bluestem Award Committee as a reader and selector.  Her lofty and reach-for-the-stars life goals are to be a book reviewer and serve on either the Caldecott Award Committee or the Newbery Award Committee.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a librarian at the Latin School of Chicago. She holds a bachelor's degree in Education from Loyola University Chicago and a MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a guest reviewer for the Horn Book Magazine and she blogs occasionally at

Lolly Gepson 

Lolly Gepson has worked at the Northbrook Public Library for 30 years as a Youth Services Librarian. Her responsibilities included: School Facilitator Position, storytimes, school visits, summer reading program, book talks, reference and reader's advisory. She also served on the 2005 Caldecott Committee and the 2015 Newbery Committee.

Jacqui Kolar

Jacqui Kolar (president of Friends group) is a reading specialist at Big Hollow School District 38 in Ingleside, IL. She works kindergarten through eighth grade students. Jacqui has had a love and passion for reading since she was very young and strives to instill that love for reading in her students. Jacqui completed both her undergraduate and graduate work at NLU.

Christina Moorehead

Christina happily joined the Friends group in August 2015.  Christina has been a teacher for 28 years with her primary experience in Early Childhood and Kindergarten.  In addition to this Christina also holds Montessori Certification and has experience teaching upper elementary, junior and senior high, college, ESL/EFL, PYP and project-based science as well as in international (Japan) and accelerated programs.   Her personal and lifelong love for story telling in all forms fuels her desire to help spark the love for reading in children of all ages.

Maureen O'Shea 

Maureen O’Shea currently works as a substitute teacher in East Maine School District 63 and a substitute in the Chicago Public Library’s Teacher in the Library Program. She holds a degree in English and Elementary Education and a Master’s in Library Science from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. During her career she has worked as a Language Arts Writer/Editor at Laidlaw Brothers Publishing, a teacher and School Librarian at Franklin Park School District 84 and a school Librarian at East Maine School District until she retired in 2017. She also worked for many years as a Youth Services Librarian at the Glenview Public Library.

Maureen is very happy to be a member of the Friends Board at CTTCB because she has always been passionate about bringing children and books together. Having this interest makes her very grateful to be a team member with like-minded people and to have opportunities to learn from the many distinguished practitioners in the field of children’s literature who participate in programs at the Center.

Meg Pyterek

Meg Pyterek was the first President of CTCB Friends Group. She is an Adjunct Professor at National Louis University & USBBY Illinois State Ambassador. She was a Golden Apple Winner in 2003 and a teacher for 34 years in the Glenview #34 & Northbrook #27 School Districts. Meg has a Bachelor's Degree from Bradley University, Master's Degree from Northwestern University, and Doctoral Degree from National Louis University (Reading and Language). Her areas of research are: Authentic Literature for Children & Questioning in the Classroom. She loves to read, write, and travel!

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson proudly joined the Friends group in January 2015.  He works as a Full-Time Children's Librarian at the Evanston Public Library. Brian writes audiovisual reviews to Booklist magazine, and has served on such committees as the Bluestem Award Steering Committee, the Monarch Award Committee, and the 2015 Odyssey Award Selection Committee.  At Evanston Public Library, he provides an annual presentation on his favorite picture books.  Please visit his blog, Mr. Brian's Picture Book Picks at

Janet Thompson

Janet Thompson is a Chicago Public Librarian who works in children’s services at the West Belmont Branch. She is chair of the nominating committee for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award as well as a reader/selector. She is also managing editor of Storytelling Magazine and served on the 2015 Newbery Committee.