learn / 2015

Leaders + Readers: Bringing Much Needed Books to Children in LAUSD & Beyond

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Milk + Bookies

M+B’s LEADERS+READERS program is designed to encourage student volunteers in the Los Angeles community to organize book drives benefiting another Los Angeles based “sister” school. The goal of every Leaders + Readers book drive is to flood underserved Los Angeles schools with the books needed to support learning and academic excellence AND allow students to gain experience with leadership and community service. L+R is leveraging our community’s resources to fill the budget gap that LAUSD faces.

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles
  • Children's Hospital of Orange County, Ronald McDonald House Pasadena, Hillsides Foster Care, Summer Meals Program of Pasadena, Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Assistance League of Santa Monica, Santa Monica Public Library, The Book Truck, and many more!

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Expand a pilot or a program
  • Mobilize for systems change
  • Redistribute community resources where they are most needed.

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • Percentage of children enrolled in early education programs
  • Percent of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years
  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Academic Performance Index* scores
  • College matriculation rates
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher ed
  • Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)
  • Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

We at Milk + Bookies believe the sustainability of a literate community depends on the accessibility of books - and underprivileged boys and girls in Los Angeles do not have the books they need to thrive. Yet if children of relative means were taught to recycle surplus books in their homes, all schools in Los Angeles - and by extension, their students - would have the titles so desperately needed to inspire and engage. Enter, Milk + Bookies Leaders + Readers.

Leaders + Readers is a service-learning, book drive program that joins two divergent Los Angeles student communities and results in thousands of books placed into classroom libraries at recipient schools – those most in need of grade and literacy-level appropriate reading material – making L.A. the best place to learn.

Each book drive includes four steps, with Leaders + Readers staff working with student volunteers at L.A. area elementary schools to:

STEP 1: Coordinate the book drives that are run by the student volunteers at donor schools. Leaders + Readers inspires creative marketing and teamwork, culminating in weeklong, all-school book drives.

STEP 2: Sort donated books for quality and reading level, then pack them for delivery. As part of this process, student volunteers write and respond to letters from students at recipient school who anxiously await delivery.

STEP 3: Bring books to the recipient schools. This is an extraordinarily meaningful part of the process for all participants, as students from the schools donating books (generally from upper grades) meet with their buddies at the recipient schools (usually first grade students) to share a snack and a story.

STEP 4: Reflect – post-delivery – on the giving experience with students who organized the drives. For recipient schools, thousands of books are distributed to classroom libraries, the school library, and in some cases, at pop-up “Book Fairs” that allow kids in need to take home books of their own.

This “book flood” presents a proven, win-win strategy. It improves literacy by creating sizable in-class libraries and providing low-income students with easily accessible collections. At the same time, student volunteers apply their collective energy and enthusiasm towards helping less fortunate kids expand their thinking, engage their imaginations and succeed. Whether students are giving or receiving, Leaders + Readers changes their lives, all the while dramatically upgrading the quality of education in L.A.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

Milk+Bookies recognizes the importance of evaluation in gauging the sustainability of our Leaders+Readers program. To that end, we shall continue to measure the impact of our work – and the lasting effect that our book drives have on student education – by focusing on particular metrics.

For schools participating in our service-learning programs, forms will be completed by teachers, surveys conducted, and student volunteers interviewed to determine (1) when in the school year book drives have been most successful, (2) the number of books collected (per classroom and in total), and (3) the process by which schools have become involved with Leaders + Readers.

We will solicit experiential feedback from teachers, students and administrators. Recipient schools will complete questionnaires about the process, and the reactions of children receiving books will be similarly recorded. The information gleaned will be used to encourage other schools to participate going forward.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research