Lunchbox notes offer kids a warm fuzzy and a way to cope

When sixth-grader Jacob Myers opens his lunch at school, he finds something more than a sandwich and juice box: a flashcard-sized comic strip from his mom. One day the note might tell a story about a child who confides to a friend about feeling left out. Another day, the comic may show a teacher praising a student for trying hard on a homework assignment.

Jacob, who attends Tehiyah Jewish Day School in the East Bay, has been getting those notes from his mom for the last seven months — an experiment his mom undertook to address Jacob’s learning struggles in school. Almost immediately, Jacob’s mom and teachers saw a difference. Jacob’s teachers sent notes home commending his improvement. At the dinner table, Jacob was more communicative, and he often referred to the characters in his lunchtime comics when describing his day at school.

Jacob’s mom is Mindy Myers, an educator specializing in child development issues and the CEO of Sound Advice, Inc. According to Myers, empirical research demonstrates that children who feel their parents’ presence while at school learn better. The kids are more open to learning, feel more secure and use better judgment.

Once Myers saw the change in Jacob’s behavior, she knew she was on to something, and believed more children could probably benefit from a lunchbox note from home.

“I came to realize there are many Jacobs out there, who don’t necessarily have behavior or development issues, but who need a little more connection to family when they are away at school,” said Myers.

Myers’ answer for helping kids was to create Noteniks.

Noteniks are index-card comic strips of children talking with other children, parents and teachers about the ups and downs of growing up. Each comic teaches a lesson about bullying, feeling left out, accepting others and trying hard in school.

The comics reflect a rainbow of physical differences and ethnicities, including kids with eyeglasses, braces, disabilities, various heights and weights. They include families with single parents, multigenerations and pregnant moms. Sold in packets of 32 daily comics for about $12, they cater to two age groups. For children aged 4 to 7, the comics focus on the importance of family. For 8- to 12-year-olds, messages reflect the growing pains facing elementary school children.

“More than saying ‘I love you, have a great day,’ these notes give kids a new lens to look through to deal with problems like bullying,” Myers said. “It is real life in a comic format. Kids can identify with the cartoons and feel comforted knowing their struggles are not unique.”

Myers believes her Jewish faith was a big inspiration for Noteniks. She is active in the local Jewish community and previously worked for Jewish Federation of the East Bay. She still recalls her parents’ emphasis on the Jewish values of family and education. Through her research, she began to question the historic separation between the two. When education and family are interconnected, “there is an impact for years to come,” Myers said.

Noteniks are designed to be a tool for busy parents to help their children make a family-education connection. Amid the pressures placed on working parents, many have little time to pack sandwiches, let alone write inspiring notes intended for lunchboxes. With Noteniks, “parents can care without having to think up a clever, different message than the day before,” Myers said.

Noteniks went on the market Aug. 1 in 16 states. About a dozen parents at Tehiyah have begun sending Noteniks in their children’s lunchboxes and more than 1,000 Noteniks have been sold nationwide.

Sound Advice, Inc. also makes Motivational Noteniks, designed for teachers to praise students, and Dental Noteniks, comics about brushing and flossing. Dentists give the comics, which are available in English and Spanish, to their patients instead of toys.

Myers said Sound Advice, Inc. products are created to be funny while being educational and guiding.

“I knew I had to do them in a fun way so kids received the message,” Myers said. “The leap to developing Noteniks was scary and exciting. I wanted to create something with value and make a contribution. When I see the change in my child and in others, I know the leap was for a good reason.”

Noteniks can be found in stores throughout the Bay Area, including Walden Pond in Oakland; Rockridge Kids and Cody’s Bookstore in Berkeley; Card N’ Quill in Alameda; Learning Game in Cupertino; and Stacey’s and Cliff’s Variety Store in San Francisco. They can also be ordered online at