Ever wonder how we choose the books on our Reading List each year? 

A committee of children’s story lovers reads and recommends all of our titles for our year-round programming, including the 16th Annual Telling Tales Festival!

Who is the SAC?

The SAC invites educators, librarians, arts professionals, and children’s book-loving community members from the wider community into the programming selection process at Telling Tales, with the hope of selecting titles for the Reading List that represent a diversity of voices and perspectives and are representative of our regional community. The 2024 SAC consists of nine members working with Telling Tales staff and SAC Co-chairs from Hamilton Public Library and Burlington Public Library.

SAC Co-Chairs

Katelyn Granger (she/her)

Katelyn (she/her) grew up in libraries, from avid storytime go-er to holding many different library positions since high school. Katelyn is currently the Manager of Youth Services at Hamilton Public Library. Prior to joining Team HPL, Katelyn spent six years working as a children and youth librarian (after a brief time dabbling in academic libraries – she missed picture books too much!). She has a passion for sharing the magic and power of children’s books, fostering the love of stories in all ages and building community connections.

Brynley Eckhart (she/her)

Brynley Eckhart (she/her) is the Digital Resource and Collections Librarian at Burlington Public Library. She maintains and grows the Library’s digital and physical collections to meet the evolving needs of the Burlington community. With 10 years’ experience in the library field, Brynley finds passion in librarianship and loves working in a place that encourages people to gather and connect. Brynley loves dahlia gardening and spending time outdoors. Her ultimate day would be reading a great book by the water, with a coffee in hand. Being a part of Telling Tales 2024 has renewed Brynley’s love for children’s literature.  

SAC Members 2024

Ainara Alleyne (she/her)

Ainara Alleyne is a 14 year-old host, co-creator, co-writer, and executive producer on Ainara’s Bookshelf.

Ainara’s mission is to highlight books for young people whose authors and main characters are Black, Indigenous, people of color, differently abled and other underrepresented minorities. Ainara shares reviews, recommendations, and author interviews to bring diverse stories to a broader audience. She believes that by experiencing other cultures and perspectives through books, we can not only acknowledge our differences but be able to understand and embrace them.

Since launching her Instagram feed, Ainara has reviewed books for the New York Times, acted as a reporter for CBC Kids News, is Hamilton Public Library’s First Junior Librarian in Residence, has spoken to schools and at educator symposiums, and is the Ms Read-a-Thon Junior Ambassador for 2022 and 2023. She also has several acting credits to her name including Odd Squad Mobile Unit (Netflix), Six Degrees of Santa (Lifetime), Nine Films About Technology (Disney+), and several theater credits.

Angela Ventresca (she/her)

With over 22 years in Catholic education, I have dedicated myself to fostering student success and development within diverse communities, embodying Niagara Catholic District School Board core values of integrity, faith, justice, compassion, stewardship, accountability and community. My passion for literacy as an educator is deeply rooted in the transformative power of words. I believe that literacy is not merely acquiring reading and writing skills but a gateway to unlocking a world of knowledge, imagination, and empathy. By utilizing diverse and captivating
texts, I strive to make the world of books a place of wonder and excitement for my students. My position as the Indigenous Education Consultant (K-12) aligns with my passion for reading, transcending the boundaries of the classroom. Diving into the captivating world of literature
brings me endless joy as I embrace stories, where every page weaves a story that fuels my love for reading.

Brooke Lavallee (she/her)

Brooke Lavallee is Anishinaabe, a member Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.  Currently, Brooke is a doctoral student at Trent University with an Indigenous early childhood education focus.  She has earned a Master of Educationwith specialization in Indigenous Education.  Brooke is the Provincial Coordinator for the Centre for Indigenous Professional Learning, “Resurgence of Our Knowledges” with the Ontario Aboriginal Head Start Association. In addition, she developed and facilitates cultural safety sessions as a cultural safety facilitator with Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg.  Brooke is passionate about ensuring that there are safe spaces for Indigenous children and families accessing early years services.  

George Zeng (he/him)

Hey everyone! My name is George Zeng, my pronouns are he/him, and I am a Grade 11 student from Westmount Secondary School, Hamilton ON.

As part of our Telling Tales SAC (Selection Advisory Committee) this year, I hope to bring my passion for reading along with my experience in student leadership to this year’s Telling Tales Festival – together, let’s turn the page to a storybook journey of your imagination!

When I’m not trying to get into a good book (AKA this year’s selections), you might catch me lending a hand through volunteering or stuck in a different kind of book (textbooks).

I’m really excited to embark on this “novel” journey with everyone!

ig: @curious_george.z

Jennifer Mook-Sang (she/her)

Jennifer Mook-Sang was born in Guyana and moved to Canada at the age of 14. She is the author of the best-selling middle grade novel Speechless and picture book Captain Monty Takes the Plunge. She’s uber-proud that her latest picture book The Care and Keeping of Grandmas is a Dolly Parton Imagination Library selection. When not writing, Jennifer loves to read picture books and graphic novels. She’s also fond of recipe books and likes to make tasty things like pepperpot, biryani, and cassava pone. Jennifer lives in Burlington, Ontario.

Jenny Sterzaj (she/her)

Jenny Sterzaj is an eclectic reader, traversing the realms of biographies, historical fiction, horror, spirituality, humour, war novels, and culturally diverse works. Alongside her literary passions, she immerses herself in woodworking, travel, and is continuously working on mastering French and Spanish. As a Social Worker and Recreation Therapist by profession, she brings empathy to her community. Recently, she’s embarked on the journey of children’s book writing. Though her love for dogs is unwavering, they don’t always accompany her on her adventures. Jenny also delights in exploring museum exhibits and being swept away by the enchantment of musical theater performances.

Khadeeja Maklad (she/her)

Hey everyone, I’m Khadeeja Maklad and I use she/her pronouns.  I’m a grade 12 student born in Cairo, Egypt and pursuing a career in STEM. I’m a huge reader and writer in my freetime, creating my own poetry and music. I’m a huge fan of dystopian and historical fiction, as well as work from the Victorian time period. I also love language learning, and finding different translations of iconic books. I am currently fluent in Arabic and English, but hope to learn French, Turkish and German as well. I look forward to what Telling Tales has to offer!

Macklin Loosley-Millman (she/her)

Macklin Loosley-Millman (she/her) is an avid reader of children’s books, mostly graphic novels. She got her Masters of Research in Children’s Literature at the University of Reading, studying themes of colonialism in middle grade portal fantasy. Since 2022, Macklin has been a bookseller with Another Story Bookshop in Toronto. She works in their education department, selling titles concerning equity, diversity, and social justice to schools and libraries across Southern Ontario and beyond. 

Setareh Masoumbeiki (she/her)

I’m passionate about storytelling in all its forms, from the pages of classic literature to the vibrant panels of comic books. As a lover of narratives, I find joy in exploring diverse tales that captivate and inspire. Whether it’s diving into the intricate worlds of graphic novels or unraveling the layers of a timeless novel, storytelling is my fuel. I’m thrilled to be part of Telling Tales and contribute to the community’s journey through the 2024 Reading List.

Content Labels

Beginning with our 2023 titles, Telling Tales is committed to providing Content/Discussion Topic Labels on an ongoing basis.

Content/Discussion Topics

You have probably seen ratings on movies or video games. Maybe you’ve noticed a little list of content before the episode of a TV show you’re streaming. These content labels are a gentle “heads up” to prepare people for what they are about to see.

Books are only just beginning to highlight the content in them. 

Because content labels are not always put in books by authors and publishers, Telling Tales will provide these labels on our Reading List titles.

Why Label Content?

Labeling sensitive content helps people make informed choices. The decision to label content/discussion topics is with care for our community of readers in mind. 

We encourage parents, caregivers, and educators to research and/or read any of the materials before introducing them to children to be sure the themes and content in them are appropriate. This also allows parents, caregivers, and educators to be prepared to have conversations with child readers about the content they will encounter in a book.

Who Decides What to Label?

For the 2023 titles, Staff have crowd-sourced content labels from book review platforms like Storygraph and Goodreads, in addition to using our knowledge of the books via the Selection process. 

Starting in 2024 our Selection Committee will decide on Content/Discussion Topics. Our Selection Committee is a diverse group of volunteer students, teachers, educators, librarians, and community members who read and vote on the books that are featured in our programming.

As the book space changes we will see more books containing content/discussion topics listed. If the author or publisher provides content/discussion topics, Telling Tales will use those in addition to the expertise of our Selection Committee.

A Commitment to Ongoing Review

An important part of providing labels for content/discussion topics is listening to our community who uses the Reading List and doing continuous review. Telling Tales will continue to change and grow in order to provide our community with the best possible reading experiences.

We welcome feedback from our community. Email selection@tellingtales.org.