Moms of the Year: Jennifer Kenealy

Mom to Claire, age 12, David, age 10 and Brendon, age 8

Alexandria, VA

Nominated by Raissa Precious:

Half a million. That’s how many books Jennifer Kenealy, a mom of three, wife and part-time Fairfax County teacher, helped the DreamDog Foundation collect and re-distribute to low-income children across greater Washington to ensure all children, especially the disadvantaged, have equal access to books. Her ultimate dream is to help instill children with a love of literacy and to inspire kids to read, and it is a dream she wants to share. That passion led her to work with DreamDog and help implement their Alexandria Book Shelf (ABS) project and push out their Arlington Book Shelf program, which collects books through book drives and donations. Along with a group of dedicated volunteers, Jen has helped set up more than 40 ABS book collection sites at recreation centers, schools and other sites where children live, play and learn.

Q&A with Jennifer

What’s the best parenting adviceyou’ve ever received?

Raising children is a bit of a mystery. Most problems turn out to be a blip on the screen of life and you just need to get through them. Along the mystery lines, I was also told once you think you have figured your children out, they change.

What advice would you give to newor expectant mothers?

Enjoy every minute and take it all in. The greatest gift to your child is your time. On a practical note, get your child accustomed to drinking water and milk, it will simplify your life and is better for them.

How do you think your children would describe you?

I decided to consult my kids on this question, and was happy to hear they think of me as loving, kind, caring and sometimes funny. They know I love books and spend tons of time getting them to other children. My family has been awesome putting up with piles of books everywhere and giving up our basement for book storage.

Who is your role model?

My parents have always inspired me with their commitment to family, generous hospitality and willingness to go out of their way for people. I am also in love with Pope Francis.

What goals do you have for yourself?

I want to get certified to teach Rachel Simmon’s Girl Leadership Curriculum. I have a middle school daughter and believe girls need tools to navigate their complex world. So much energy goes to the wrong places and we need to empower girls to change the world. I hope someone develops a boy leadership curriculum, but I will let my husband teach that one.

What goals do you have for your children?

I want my children to keep going out into the world and making it a better place. I tell them there is a lot of darkness in the world and that is why the world needs their light. I hope they are always surrounded by love and find a job that is meaningful. As a mom, I know I will only be as happy as my unhappiest child.

Click here to read about the other Moms of the Year!

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