White Paper


About the Event

Join us for the third and final event in our Small Talks early literacy series. This entire in-person, hour-long event will be dedicated to the important topic of parent engagement as a strategy for supporting early literacy development.  Come to learn about:

  • Findings from an important survey illuminating early literacy practices in Minnesota families with young children,
  • Specific early literacy related work happening in support of Minnesota families of African descent, and
  • Community-based literacy interventions.

And leave with a better understanding of family literacy practices, ideas for supporting families and communities on their literacy journeys, and new connections.








Constance Beecher
Associate Professor
School of Education, College of Human Sciences
Iowa State University

Constance Beecher is an Associate Professor at Iowa State University with expertise in the areas of early intervention and literacy, community-based research, intervention development using human-centered design, and rapid cycle testing.  Her work focuses on community-based education and intervention around language and literacy development, including the use of technology for intervention, progress monitoring, and engagement of children and families.  Prior to her role at Iowa State, Beecher taught children with and without disabilities primarily in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms. Beecher’s passion is working with communities to improve awareness and practice about the importance of talking and reading with young children.


Gevonee Ford
Founder and Executive Director
Network for the Development of Children of African Descent

Gevonee Ford has been at the forefront of progressive education in Minnesota as a teacher, trainer, program director, and community organizer specializing in program development, administration, and policy. Ford is the Founder and Executive Director of Network for the Development of Children of African Descent (NdCAD), a non-profit family education center located in Saint Paul, Minnesota that was established in 1997 and is focused on education and community revitalization in communities of African descent. Ford’s mission through NdCAD is to strengthen important cultural connections within African communities that help prepare children for success in school and life. Mr. Ford has continued a tradition of Black leadership by working with hundreds of children and their families each year to increase reading proficiency and learning confidence amongst students and increased reading levels and academic performance in school as well as increased parental and community involvement in the education of children.


Andrea Walsh
HealthPartners President & CEO

Andrea Walsh is president and chief executive officer for HealthPartners, the largest, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation.  Throughout her career, Walsh has been passionate about health and deeply committed to making a difference in people’s lives. Today, she leads a team of more than 26,000 people focused on the mission of improving health and well-being in partnership with patients, members, and the community.

Prior to her appointment as president and CEO in 2017, Walsh was part of the HealthPartners senior executive team for more than 20 years. Prior to joining HealthPartners, she practiced law and was an assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Health. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and the University of Kansas.

Walsh has a long history of community service.  She currently serves on and chairs the boards of the YMCA of the North and the Minnesota Business Partnership.  HealthPartners is part of Little Moments Count a statewide movement to help parents and the community understand the importance of talking, playing, reading, and singing early and often with children.



8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.  Breakfast and Networking

9:00 a.m. Welcome & Introductions


Audience Questions

10:00 Adjourn