First Book Appoints Four Executives to Its Board of Directors

Sept. 30, 2021 (WASHINGTON) – First Book, a national nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to educational equity, today announced the appointment of four executives to its board of directors. The four new board members are Chequan Lewis, vice president, operations, Pizza Hut, Plano, Texas; Manish Madhavani, partner in charge, New York Financial Services, KPMG, New York City; Lidia Soto-Harmon, chief executive officer, Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., and Carla D. Thompson Payton, vice president for program strategy for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, Mich. The new board members have been appointed for three-year terms.

Founded in 1992, First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by aggregating the voice and needs of formal and informal educators serving the millions of U.S. children in poverty. To address those needs, First Book has built an online community that currently numbers more than 520,000 formal and informal educators, with 1,000 joining every week. Through its research arm, First Book Research & Insights,the organization conducts original research to identify issues facing children in need and the educators who serve them. These research findings are used to continuously improve the organization’s models as well as to inform the field.  First Book responds to those needs using the organization’s growing market power to increase access to and the creation of diverse and inclusive, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items at the lowest prices possible through its award-winning First Book Marketplace, the organization’s nonprofit eCommerce site. In addition, theorganization works with leading experts through its First Book Accelerator to expedite evidence-based strategies to practitioners, arming them with practical new tools to address challenges facing children, ranging from mental health and racism to grief, loss, and trauma.

Building on its 30-year record of success, First Book has launched a seven-year scaling plan, seeking $12 million to support strategic growth that will enable the organization to reach two million educators and tens of millions of children living in poverty annually.

“First Book is entering an important period of growth and expansion as it works to address the educational disparities exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Dr. Martha Molina Bernadett, First Book’s acting board chair and founder of The Molina Foundation. “Chequan, Carla, Manish, and Lidia share First Book’s belief in the power of education to enable children to reach their potential, and the importance of ensuring that our nation’s educators have access to the critical resources they need to make that happen. Their experience and insights from the social and private sectors will be extremely valuable as First Book expands its innovative strategies and flexes its market strength as a nonprofit social enterprise to drive systemic change.”

As vice president, operations, Lewis helps lead the holistic operations vision and strategy for the Pizza Hut U.S. business. Immediately preceding his newly-expanded role in the Pizza Hut business, Lewis served as chief equity officer for Pizza Hut U.S. In that role, he guided the company’s equity and inclusion vision, strategy, and initiatives across Pizza Hut’s footprint as a franchiser, employer, and community pillar.  A graduate of Howard University and Harvard Law School, he is a Presidential Leadership Scholar and a recipient of the Dallas Business Journal’s Minority Business Leader Award.  He is also a contributor to the Dallas Morning News, focusing on sociopolitical issues. Lewis resides in Oak Cliff, Texas, with his wife and their two children.

Madhavani leads KPMG’s New York Financial Services Audit practice, with responsibility for driving innovation, quality and enhanced client experiences for KPMG’s financial services clients in the tri-state region. Prior to his current role, he led KPMG’s Stamford office as the Office Managing Partner. Madhavani has over 26 years of experience in providing audit and related services and also serves as a lead audit partner on financial service clients. He is a graduate of the University of Mumbai and started his professional career with KPMG’s member firm in India. He and his wife and two children live in Wilton, Conn.

Soto-Harmon is the head of the largest Girl Scouts Council in the country and serves as the champion for girls and their mentors. Her responsibilities include developing strategies to build membership, creating a culture of philanthropy, and championing youth development. An expert in nonprofit governance, marketing/communications, and strategic planning, she serves on several boards of directors, including two foundation boards. Soto-Harmon has a Master’s in Public Administration from George Mason University and B.A. from Drew University.

Thompson Payton supports the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s efforts to promote thriving children, working families, and equitable communities. Thompson Payton provides leadership and management for the creative and strategic direction of programming from design through implementation, evaluation, and dissemination. As a member of the executive team, she is also responsible for the overall direction and leadership of the foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, Thompson Payton was deputy director of the Office of Child Care at the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. There, she was responsible for developing national early childhood education policy, managing the $5 billion annual budget of the Child Care Development Fund and providing oversight to 10 regional offices serving states, tribes, and territories. She has held positions with the Department of Education and Department of Public Welfare for the state of Pennsylvania; United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and the U.S. Department of Education. She is the author of three publications related to school readiness and advocacy. 

More information on each of the new board members can be found here.


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About First Book

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 29-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 520,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, diverse, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research-based strategies to the classroom via relevant, accessible educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books. For more information, visit or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

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