Get to know the staff of the Children’s Book Council.
Shaina Birkhead, Associate Executive Director
Having worked at the CBC for over six years, Shaina’s focus is on creating, growing, and maintaining programs and partnerships that support the work of the CBC’s member publishers, increase awareness of children’s books, and address important topics affecting the industry at large. Her main responsibilities have been coordination of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program and of the national Children’s Book Week, now celebrating its 101st anniversary. Before her work at the CBC and Every Child a Reader, Shaina received a BFA in Dance from UNC-Greensboro and had an exciting career in restaurant service and management. Shaina’s fascination with and adoration of creators in many disciples fuels her own passion for books and for making things with her hands. She lives in Atlanta, GA and welcomed her first child, Theo, in January 2020.
Laura Peraza, Head of Content
Laura is an intellectually curious and knowledgeable communicator with experience in digital content strategies, media information, copywriting, content writing, and visual design. She has overseen a complete redesign of CBC’s website, coordination of the design of a vast array of educational materials, and is leading a revitalized social media campaign. She previously worked at World Book Night US, Vintage Español, and Open Road, as well as freelance work. Aside from her law degree, she has a postgraduate degree in journalism from the London School of Journalism, as well as an M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media from New York University. Fluent in English and Spanish, with some French language skills, she is a lover of travel, art, and nonprofit endeavors.
Carl Lennertz, Executive Director
Carl has held executive positions at several publishing houses and non-profits. He was Marketing VP at Knopf for 10 years and held marketing positions at HarperCollins and Little, Brown. He organized over 2,000 national author tours and oversaw bestselling book campaigns as well as debut launches. He published a book with Random House and has edited over 25 books. Lennertz taught marketing at the University of Denver for 11 years, giving the commencement speech in 2020. His non-profit and association work includes the ABA (working on a national campaign for independent bookstores), 3 years running World Book Night US (where 250,000 free books were handed out to people in need each year on April 23), and now as the CBC and Every Child a Reader Exec Director for 4 years.
Ryan Mita, Membership and Marketing Manager
Ryan coordinates CBC’s membership efforts as well as the work of three committees: CBC Diversity, Graphic Novels, and ALA-CBC. He’s worked for Knopf Doubleday in academic marketing, as an agent at a small illustration agency, at Beacon Press in Boston, and at two independent bookstores: Elliott Bay Books and Harvard Bookstore. Ryan is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute and now lives in Austin, Texas.
Jena Groshek, Marketing Coordinator
Being a writer since she was in elementary school, Jena always knew that books would play a huge role in her life. She received a BA in English, Creative Writing, and Business from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, which included a semester abroad at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where she studied Scottish literature and international marketing. She attended the Denver Publishing Institute and then interned at Publisher Spotlight. Moving to NYC to be a CBC intern, she coordinated new book sorting and CBC’s book donation program. She was hired full-time and is navigating the early stages of a career in marketing for children’s books at the CBC, including oversight of the Early Career Committee and contributions to CBC’s social media and content creation. Her love for humanity and the arts drives everything she does in her professional work.
John McCormack, Freelance Social Media
John maintains CBC’s social media platforms. He received a BA in Creative Writing and Film from the University of Central Florida. He then went on to the University of Denver for both the Denver Publishing Institute and his MA in Professional Dramatic Writing. He works at a comic bookstore in Florida and compiled CBC’s Pride Month graphic novel list. On staff Zoom calls, he can be spotted sporting his backwards Denver Broncos hat and cuddling his sweet dog, Indiana “Indy” Bones.
Sommer Wissner, Intern
Sommer’s love of children’s literature peaked after finding a copy of the Grimm’s Book of Fairytales with the text block bound upside down! She received a BA in English with a specialty in Writing and Editing at Auburn University while working at NewSouth Books. She attended the Denver Publishing Institute and then made the move to New York. She helps cultivate CBC’s Hot Off the Press and Showcase book lists and providing assistance to her coworkers whenever needed.
Nick Rodgriguez, Intern
Nick coordinates several programs at the CBC – the Goddard CBC Social Justice Prize and the Get Caught Reading poster mailings – along with writing blog posts about book-themed lists and virtual events he attends on behalf of the CBC. He is also a supervisor at Think, a coffee shop near NYU. His book passions run from both adult and children’s books about history to graphic novels and Syfy/fantasy. His favorite books are Stamped and Dune.