'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Interview: Milk + Bookies

We love literacy here at KBR and so are delighted to have this very special visit from Meredith Alexander, founder of US-based literacy initiative Milk + Bookies. Enjoy this wonderful insight into a very special organisation.

Welcome Meredith! Tell us, what is Milk + Bookies?
Milk + Bookies is a national non-profit organization for service learning and literacy. We are two-fold, we expose children to how wonderful it feels to give by having them choose, inscribe and donate books to local kids in need. Then, of course, we are able to deliver these books to children who are in want and need of appropriate reading material.

Tell us your inspiration for creating this organisation.
It is very important for me to spend our family time in a meaningful way. I want my sons (ages 5 & 10) to know that we give all year long, not just at Christmas and Hanukah. Milk + Bookies felt like the perfect way to exercise this.

Have you always had a passion for children’s books?
Always! When my mother read me Pickle Chiffon Pie in the early 1970s, I was hooked. The images, the story, the hope, the fantasy! Since then, I pick up every picture book I can get my hands on.

Why is it so important to teach children how to be philanthropic?
My opinion is that we leave this world better than we found it, that is our job. There is so much to do in so many places and if you expose a child at a young age to how amazing it makes them feel to help others, my hope it that they will do it again and again. Think of what they can accomplish in their lifetime if they start their helping at a young age.

What kind of events do you run at Milk and Bookies?
We facilitate all kinds of events. We help hosts everywhere have their own parties from birthdays to scout troupe days to book clubs to fairs. Our models can be molded to fit any and all kinds of activities for all children. We set up the hosts with a Bookies Box filled with materials like bookplates and I DONATED stickers (our badge of honor), then we help them find a worthy recipient group in their neighborhood.

As an organization, the only event we host ourselves is our annual Los Angeles fundraiser called the 'Story Time Celebration'.

You’ve enjoyed a lot of support and media exposure – why do you think so many people have got behind M+B?
We are extremely lucky and our team works crazy hard, but when a parent has a clear understanding of what our movement is all about and how it will make their child a more well-rounded and caring person, they jump on board. We couldn't be more grateful for the support we've received. Plus we have an amazing graphics team (also-online.com) so our brand looks as optimistic and happy as we are! People are really drawn to that.

What have been your greatest obstacles in setting up Milk + Bookies?
As any small business on a shoestring budget, obstacles come in all shapes and sizes and most of them couldn't have been predicted. I like to say, "I don't know what I don't know" which is basically that I didn't even know which questions to ask in a specific situation! I'd say that when people just assume Milk + Bookies is ONLY about donating books, it becomes frustrating to repeat that our mission is equally about the service learning experience. AND I wouldn't recommend fundraising in a downturned economy!

What has been your greatest joy?
My greatest joy thus far in my Milk + Bookies journey has been watching the beaming pride radiate off the children when they wear their I DONATED sticker after having chosen and inscribed their donations. It is the most exciting and meaningful moment, every time it happens!

What do you hope Milk + Bookies provides children?
I hope that Milk + Bookies will continue to provide children with a sense of self importance, self-efficacy and know that what they do really matters. They can make a difference in big and small ways - and it also FEELS good ;)

Name five of your favourite children’s books of all time.
That is nearly impossible to answer (there are SOOO many I love) but I will try:
Pickle Chiffon Pie
Knuffle Bunny
Iggy Peck Architect
Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed
Bagels From Benny

If you could be any children’s book character, what would you be and why?
Why, ELOISE, of course! Room service is the best!

Learn more about Milk + Bookies at www.milkandbookies.org. With 21,315 books raised and 4,244 young philanthropists already inspired, why not host your own Feel Good Book Donation party? Stay tuned for KBR's review of Meredith's gorgeous picture book Sweet Pete.