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Celebrating Books and Giving: Milk + Bookies

January 30, 2012

I can’t remember how I first heard about LA-based nonprofit Milk + Bookies. Somehow I found their website and after reading a bit about their recent events and their aim “to expose young children to how great it feels to give back while celebrating the love of a good book”, I fell in love. As a mom to two small kids, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that they have. Holidays and birthdays result in huge numbers of new, unneeded toys. And as most book industry people can probably relate to, very few people gift my children with books, assuming we have plenty of our own (we do!)


One of the Milk + Bookies events is suited to birthday parties, so I started the “hard-sell” to my daughter. Instead of celebrating her fifth birthday with a princess party or a bouncy house, I pitched her on a book theme, with milk and cookies. In lieu of gifts, I asked each guest to bring a new, unwrapped children’s book to the party to donate to our local children’s hospital. The little girls who came created their own books and bookmarks, snacked on cupcakes decorated with tiny book covers, played a game of “book cover freeze dance” (my own creation and a huge hit with the kids!), inscribed bookplates for their donated books and left with little gift bags full of glitter pencils, cookies and bookplates to use in their own libraries.

Milk + Bookies was great to work with and the box they send for parties is full of goodness: bookplates for the children to personalize, balloons, stickers, bookmarks and even a tip sheet on how to discuss the charitable component with your children. If you don’t have a particular organization in your community to donate books to, they will help you find a local group that can benefit from your donation.



The party was a great “teachable moment” for my daughter, a chance to learn about children in her own community who are less fortunate, and whose days might be brightened with new stories to read. We took a few moments together at the end of the night to reflect on the day, and to talk about why we wanted to share books that we love with sick children. Norah asked me if she could write a letter to include in the donation box. I helped her with spelling but the words are all her own. I couldn’t be more proud of my little girl.


I’ve met with Meredith, the executive director of Milk + Bookies, a few times, and I believe so strongly in her group’s mission that I asked her to share a little of her back story here with all of you.



Meredith Alexander, Executive Director of Milk + Bookies

As a new mom, 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).

In 2004, I decided it would be fun to throw a party, which I named “Milk + Bookies“, at the local children’s bookstore, Storyopolis, and invite all our friends with kids.  Once there, we asked the kids to choose a book that they would want to give to a local child without any bedtime stories.  We then asked the young guests to inscribe a bookplate (most of the kids could only scribble with a crayon), stick it in the book and then drop that book into a box for a local recipient group. 

We had milk and cookies and story readings – it was fantastic!  When the check out line had a 30 minute wait to buy books, I knew I was on to something and that other families were looking for theses kinds of experiences as well.

Zoom ahead four years.  After hosting Milk + Bookies parties biannually, I knew it was time to grow.  I brought on two of my smartest friends, Laura Zimmerman and Heidi Lindelof.  Luckily for me, they had no idea what we were getting in to so they said yes to sitting on the Board of Directors.  We applied for a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status, built a website, created models for birthday parties, class projects and book fairs.  Then, we went national!

The Milk + Bookies mission is to recreate the experience (choosing, inscribing and giving) as much as possible so that kids get switched on the amazing power of giving and how great it makes them feel.  We hope that it will set them on a path to a life of giving/ helping/ sharing in ALL ways.  The exciting by-product of our movement is getting thousands of books into the hands of kids who really want (and need) them. 

To date, we have raised over 24,000 books and inspired over 6,000 young “future philanthropists”.

I encourage you to visit the Milk + Bookies site for more information on the  different types of events that people most commonly run through them: birthday parties, class projects, bookfair events, and troop events (Girl and Boy Scouts, etc). The beauty of the concept is that any event can incorporate a charitable component. I see such potential for bookstores or kids’ boutiques to add a book donation drive to holiday storytime events, for teachers to use friendly competition to encourage students to raise books for kids in their community, and for parents to add a book donation component to any kind of party, book-themed or not. The Milk + Bookies blog highlights some amazing young people across the country who have raised astonishing numbers of books, many of whom go on to channel that charitable spirit into larger giving endeavors.

If you have a book-related nonprofit you would like to us to profile, please feel free to email us more information. We love to learn about book heroes in our community!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2012 10:19 am

    What a wonderful organization! I teared up reading your post.

  2. January 30, 2012 1:49 pm

    This is so amazing, and I so wish that I had younger kids so that I could have one of these parties myself. That is not going to stop me from mentioning it to my brother and sisters for their kids, and hopefully you will be able to add more families to the roster of participants who think that sharing the love of reading, and books is an important goal. Amazing and wonderful post today. Just what a book lover needs to see!

    • Erin permalink
      January 30, 2012 2:02 pm

      Thank you so much! And you can definitely adopt the model for any age- why not have a holiday open house with a book donation opportunity, or a Junior League event, or a table at a craft fair? There are so many possibilities 🙂

  3. January 30, 2012 11:10 pm

    Milk + Bookies! I love it! 😀

  4. February 1, 2012 4:45 pm

    Great post, Erin! You clearly added very special touches to what already is a fabulous program. I’m intruiged by the concept of “book cover” freeze tag?? Can you please explain??

    I’m also the Creator and Director of Fit Girls, a running/reading program for girls in 4th and 5th grade. I’m not a non-profit, but I thought you might be interested in the program as the mother of a young girl.


  1. Milk + Bookies: A Story Time Celebration | Random Acts of Reading

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