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Melanie Kirkwood is a doctoral student in Language and Literacy and an Illinois Distinguished Fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Secondary English Education, where she was also a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. Her undergraduate research on representations of Black girls in young adult novels set a precedent for the scope and focus of her graduate studies. After teaching briefly in the Madison Metropolitan School District, Melanie began her Masters in Reading Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Committed to both research and practice, Melanie worked as a Title 1 Reading Interventionist at a local public school prior to beginning her doctoral studies. Drawing from her experiences as a Black girl reader, teacher and researcher, Melanie’s research interests include intersectional diversity in children’s and young adult literature, selection and implementation of quality children’s literature in underserved school communities, and culturally specific literacies of Black girls and women engaging literature. Throughout her doctoral studies, she has served as a reviewer for the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books, has taught the Elementary Education Children’s Literature course, and has served as a graduate student liaison for prospective and incoming graduate students. Currently, Melanie serves as the Historian of the Literacy Research Association’s Doctoral Student Group and she is a homegirl in SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truth’s), a Black girl collective.