What We Do
The Spitfire Club is an extracurricular book club built around a collection of children's literature featuring strong, diverse, female protagonists. By creating demand for and building an inclusive community around diverse girl-positive books, The Spitfire Club enhances literacy and social-emotional skills, nurturing each Spitfire's love of reading, love of self, and love for Spitfires across all communities.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spitfire partnered with outside of school time programs (schools, recreation centers, libraries and similar groups) to offer Spitfire Clubs on a weekly basis. In light of current events, we're working with our partners and the broader community to offer weekly Spitfire Clubs online, with a focus on Spitfires who face structural and systemic barriers to literacy, visibility, opportunity, and full liberation. We are a trusted, authentic, culturally responsive partner that embodies the Spitfire’s values of curiosity, resilience, empathy, authenticity, tenacity, and empowerment.
Why We Exist
When children love to read, they do it more often. The practice of reading has a direct impact on literacy, reading comprehension, and critical thinking outcomes in students. Spitfire’s curriculum uses grade appropriate, high quality books featuring female protagonists to grab the reader’s interest while also offering a perspective that is not often seen in children’s books: a cast of characters as diverse as our society. Culture shapes our identity in a very early and implicit way, and, to a child, the books they read are a first foray into that culture. The challenge is that many of the books children have access to are about white boys (apologies to the white boys, but it's true).
One study found that around 31% of all children’s books in print have a female central character . Separate studies show that, since 2002, only 13% of children’s books in print are about people of color . There are no known studies that measure representation of both gender and race/ethnicity. However, given these statistics, it's clear that only a small percentage of books feature both diverse and female protagonists. Which is pretty remarkable, given that, in the United States, people who do not identify as white comprise 38.7% of the population and women represent 51% .
Lack of representation isn't the only challenge: Add to this the reality that female characters in children’s books often lack qualities that most parents would hope to instill in their girls – strong female relationships, independence, resilience in the face of adversity, resourcefulness – the list goes on.
The point is this: children’s books are having an identity crisis. The solution to this problem is access to more strong, diverse female representation in books. Spitfire's curriculum offers our Spitfires a more representative sample, giving participants the opportunity to experience characters that remind them of themselves and the population around them while exploring and nurturing their best selves.
 McCabe, Fairchild, Grauerholz et al (2011) http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0891243211398358
 Cooperative Children’s Book Center, University of Wisconsin Madison (2017) http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp
 United States Census Bureau (2017) https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045217
Who We Are
Amanda is the founder and Executive Director of The Spitfire Club, an innovative nonprofit book club and empowerment community for girls. Amanda launched Spitfire in Alexandria in 2017 and has since built Spitfire to serve over 285 girls in Alexandria and throughout the DMV. Amanda offers her experience of over a decade working in nonprofit management, fundraising, and strategic planning, while also bringing to bear nine years’ experience in the classroom, including four years as a volunteer and AmeriCorps Member with Heads Up, a literacy nonprofit working in DC Public Schools, where she led extracurricular and summer literacy programming, and over five years teaching ESOL to members of the immigrant community. Amanda is Chair of the Alexandria City Children Youth and Families Collaborative Commission and a member of the Agenda: Alexandria board of directors. She is a graduate of American University.
Kara Cashwell lives in Northern Virginia and has been a teacher for nearly a decade, specializing in reading and literacy instruction. A 2018 Teacher of the Year Nominee, Kara loves teaching and finding new ways to impart critical learning skills. "My favorite moments in teaching are always when an academic conversation inspires curiosity beyond the curriculum." She is also the founder of My Rockin' Tutor, a private tutoring firm that does 1:1 tutoring, small group learning, and parent coaching. Kara is passionate about diverse representation in books and has always been a book pioneer - something that drew her to Spitfire Club years ago. Kara loves to travel and can boast stamps in her passport from Ghana, Dubai, Nepal, Thailand, Canada, Mexico, and The Dominican Republic!
Lorraine Rios specializes in media sciences as a school librarian, but she began her professional career as a chemical engineer AND she is also an illustrator! In addition to being a real renaissance woman, she grew up in Puerto Rico and is bilingual. Lorraine is also very proud to share that she is "the FUN aunt!" She brings tremendous energy and a passion for inspiring our younger learners. "For me, learning should be a hands-on experience that is palpable and fun. Dancing, singing, making silly movements and sounds, drawing, sculpting, building, and more are great activities that help students remember, deepen their understanding, and fall in love with what they are learning." Lorraine also leads some great courses on Outschool, which you should definitely check out sometime.
Chair, Board of Directors
As Founding Chair of the Spitfire Club Board, Kelly offers her deep expertise in nonprofit management, strategic planning, and strategic implementation to build a sustainable and thriving organization. Kelly is determined to make the world a better place through mission-driven work. In her professional capacity, she develops organizational strategy, leads creation of strategic plans, drives strategy execution, and guides change management processes. She is currently leading the development of the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Previously, she led strategic planning and implementation, change management, and performance measurement at KaBOOM!, The Corporation for National and Community Service and AARP. She holds a M.A. in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland and a B.A. in anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.
DR. SAUNJI D. FYFFE
Member, Board of Directors
Saunji brings to Spitfire her deep expertise in monitoring and evaluation, nonprofit management, and research. Saunji is a Monitoring and Evaluation Analyst at General Dynamics Information Technology. Previously, Saunji worked as a researcher at The Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy and she has taught classes on nonprofit leadership and management. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Tech and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Virginia. Saunji also serves as a Director of Computer CORE.
VIRGINIE CAREY, MBA
Member, Board of Directors
Virginie is Vice President of Finance and Operations at Washington Area Women's Foundation, where she leads the Finance and Operations team and strategy, integrating sound business practices to advance the Foundation's mission. Merging these skills with her passion for literacy and girls' empowerment, Virginie brings her strong business acumen to The Spitfire Club, as well. In addition to serving on the Board of the Spitfire Club, Virginie also serves as the Treasurer of Inner City Inner Child. Virginie holds an MBA from the George Washington University School of Business.