Momstamp has been a fan of Milk & Bookies and their mission to “read, give, grow,” since their early book giving parties at Storyopolis in 2004. Founder and Executive Director, Meredith Alexander’s, passion to create a virtuous cycle of civic responsibility in the next generation is demonstrated in their new “leaders and readers” program. Momstamp sat down with Meredith for a little Q &A about the program and discussed her parenting tips.Meredith Alexander grew up in LA & now lives in Santa Monica with her husband and two children. Meredith’s favorite bedtime story is Pickle-Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield.
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What inspired you to start Milk & Bookies?
As a new mom, more than a decade ago, I didn’t want to spend EVERY weekend going to birthday parties and soccer games with my kids. I was hungry for meaningful experiences with my small children, experiences that would reinforce the values that our family feels strongly about (like giving back and… reading). I really wanted my kids to know that helping others is part of what our family does, whenever we can. There weren’t any family focused ways to participate in community involvement. Since we love books and were always needing more room on our bookshelves, book drives were a perfect way to integrate sharing and helping on a larger level.
Tell us about the Leaders + Readers program?
Leaders+Readers is a special Milk+Bookies program designed to encourage student volunteers in the Los Angeles community, organizing book drives to benefit another Los Angeles based “sister” school.
The goal of every Leaders+Readers Book Drive is to flood underserved Los Angeles schools with books to support learning and academic excellence AND allow students to gain experience with leadership and community service.
What has been your greatest success story with the program so far?
There are so many wonderful stories that have come out of the past 9 months, since the birth of this initiative. I especially love the impactful experiences the children have when the students from both the donor school and the recipient school meet, share a snack and a story, and make a new friend from another community. To date we have collected and redistributed over 58,000 books to Title 1 LAUSD schools.
Since you’ve taken on this program, what have you learned that’s been surprising to you (positive or negative)?
When we started running Leaders + Readers, I needed to learn more specific statistics about education in Los Angeles. I was horrified to learn that almost all of the schools’ budgets have been transitioned from books to “media and technology.” I’m a HUGE tech fan, but you have to learn to read before diving into the screens. Besides, doesn’t every child deserve to know the amazing feeling of losing yourself in a book?
On another depressing note, I was shocked to learn that 70% of all LAUSD students are on the free lunch program, as these families live below the poverty line. That is such a high number, it really put everything into perspective.
How can parents get their schools involved?
The readers of Momstamp with school age children might be interested to learn that Milk + Bookies offers Leaders + Readers, a four step complete service learning curriculum program, to all schools, public and private. Our target ages for the donor schools are third and fourth grades, but we customize the program to fit everyone from K – 12.
Milk + Bookies also offers an alternative to birthday party gifts with the Bookies Box, helping families host a “book-raiser” in honor of the birthday child. This works for many occasions such as; Mitzvah projects, Community Service hours and Scout troop badges.
What are some tips & tricks you’ve learned as a parent to make family & work life easier and/or more meaningful?
Day by Day. It’s my mantra.
What’s your co-parenting relationship like with your husband?
My husband is a very mindful and present person, he doesn’t get frazzled with the kids (and their schedules) the way that I do. He is a far superior parent than I and makes my job enjoyable. I am extraordinarily lucky that our kids have very similar interests to my husband so they can work on coding or video game building for hours together. However, it can be a feast or famine situation since his job as a writer either has him working from home with a very flexible schedule or shipped off to far away locations for extended periods of time. When he’s gone, there is a fair amount of unraveling that happens. On my birthday, last year, he was in Wales, and the card I received from our older child said, “Happy Birthday. I’m sorry you are always so angry when Dad is gone”. OUCH!
What’s your parenting superpower?
I wonder if everyone feels this way, but I have “out of the box” children with seemingly big and constant needs. Seeing your kids struggle makes it hard to feel powerful at all.
When I look from outside myself to the juggling act of; running a non-profit, a household, a marriage, two dogs and MOST IMPORTANTLY raising two unique spirits, I feel like I should own feeling like a “superhero”, but as is the plight of the American mom, I think about how I should be making healthier and more exciting dinners, forcing more homework time, taking more visits to museums, loose ten (or 20) pounds and all the SHOULDS that get in the way of celebrating it.
It sounds dream-catcher-y to say, but a deep breath and being GRATEFUL makes it all “SUPER”.And… really, everything does gets done, so I guess I sorta kick some ass… sometimes.