About Us

RIFSoCal Board Members


7250 Bandini Boulevard, Suite 209
Los Angeles, CA 90040
(323) 890-0876
(323) 890-0875

Alva Sachs — President of the Board

Alva earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Illinois. She holds a Master’s of Education degree from Northern Illinois University. Her previous teaching experience for more than sixteen years and a life-long passion for writing for kids is her motivation.

Serving as President of Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California, has enhanced her goal for the purpose of not only promoting literacy for children, but also helping to build home libraries for underserved children in the greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas.

As Vice President of the Angel of the Alliance of the Thousand Oaks Civics Arts Plaza in California, and Liaison to the Kids for the Arts program, she helps to raise funds for Title 1 schools to have the opportunity to experience live theatre.

She is the founder/author of Three Wishes Publishing Company. An award-winning children’s author, Alva pursues her writing and passion for children and books.


Penny S. Markey — Secretary of the Board

Penny Markey was the long-time Coordinator of Youth Services for the County of Los Angeles Public Library. She has been a member of many child advocacy and literacy related organizations such as the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council, L.A. Roundtable for Children; Board of the Association of Library Service to Children of the American Library Association and others. She has developed reading motivation and literacy programs for children ages 0 – teens, parents and caregivers.   She has received honors for her work from First 5, Children Now, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors as well the American Library Association. In her retirement she serves an Advocate for Libraries and Literacy, Children and Families.

 “I am delighted to be joining the RIFSoCal Board of Directors where I can continue to fulfill my passion for connecting children and families with books and encouraging a love of reading.”  ~Penny Markey     


Christopher E. Ranieri — Treasurer of the Board

Chris Ranieri is the Director of Global Health & Welfare Benefits at Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. where he manages the design, administration, communication, contracting and reporting for all health, welfare and fringe benefit plans programs and policies for approx. 65,000 employees in over 30 countries worldwide. Prior to joining Jacobs in 2006, Chris has 12 years of similar experience in employee benefits at Litton Industries Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corporation and 13 years of audit experience with Price Waterhouse and Litton Industries. Chris is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a Certified Public Accountant (inactive) in Texas and California.

Chris has volunteered with Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters as a Big Brother for over 15 years and serves on the Boards of Directors for Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters (from 2004 to the present) and Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California Inc. (from 2005 to the present).


Monyca Brown – Board Member

After serving as a volunteer for RIFSoCal during 2011-2014, Monyca Brown now enjoys a seat on its Board.

Monyca Brown brings a unique set of skills to this position as a result of her professional and personal background.   She has over 20 years of combined experience in Human Resources, Commercial Property Management and Administrative Services, in addition to operating her own consulting company that specializes in providing Human Capital/Human Resources expertise and administrative support in areas ranging from employee relations/development, organizational development/management, staffing plans, recruiting, on-boarding, manager/employee development and coaching, team-building, event management marketing, customer service and office administration.


Veronica Toyomi Ota -- Board Member

Veronica is currently the Interim Choir Director at Marshall Fundamental Secondary School in Pasadena. Music and education are her passion.
Veronica received her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Literary and Visual Studies from Tufts University in Boston. There, she had the opportunity to study literature from around the world, focusing on Japanese Literature and culture. She hopes to further her education and pursue a Masters in Education.
As a proud product of Pasadena public schools, Veronica is dedicated to improving public education and hopes to someday help develop a curriculum that focuses on the importance of compassionate activism. She believes that improving literacy among children is the first step in making this world a better place.


Katherine Richards -- Board Member

"My mother was legally blind.  She knew how to read because the onset of her vision loss came when she was a teenager.  She could not read.  My father read to me and my sister before our bedtimes and he read to my mother in the afternoon.  She finally started getting records for the blind from the Library of Congress when I was in elementary school.  And I read informational items to her when my father was at work.

Obviously I have a passion to make sure that everyone has a chance to read.   My mother's story has a happy ending.  She had surgery when I was in college and she could read again."



Melanie Thorne -- Board Member

Melanie Thorne is the award-winning author of the novel Hand Me Down (Dutton/Plume), a Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction Book of 2012. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Good Housekeeping, Global City Review, The Florida Review and The Nervous Breakdown, among others. She was awarded the Maurice Prize in Fiction, the Alva Englund Fellowship, and a Hedgebrook residency, and was a 2015 Tomales Bay Workshops Fellow, a 2014 Virginia Quarterly Review Scholar, and a 2014 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Mentor.

Melanie holds an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis, and a BA in English from UC Davis, and currently teaches at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program and in private workshops. She has more than thirteen years of teaching experience with all age levels, and is excited to be working towards expanding the minds and hearts of kids through story and education. She believes that fostering a love of reading is the best gift we can give our children now and ourselves for the future.