Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Operation BB Blasts Off!

operation bb

It’s been a rough week for me personally as a sexual violence survivor and I believe for our country as a whole. I was going to come here today and talk about it, but I am emotionally spent and drained so I thought I would share something good with you. Because in the midst of all my personal pain and anxiety during this week, I was also blessed by the heart of a child. Not just any child, my child, so I have been blessed a lot this week. Believe me when I say I needed it and am thankful for it.

On Monday, Thing 2 (age 9) and I were at J C Penney when we saw that they had a massive amount of backpacks on clearance for some prices between $2.50 and $3.00 each. It was an amazing price and I was feeling myself pulled to them. I wanted to walk away, but I couldn’t. “I wonder if there is a place that needs donations of backpacks,” I said to Thing 2. And that sentence sparked her imagination.

“What if we put books in each backpack and gave them a backpack full of books?,” she wondered. And then she got excited. And I mean, really excited. She explained her vision to me and it was pretty awesome.

So we talked a bit because I wanted to see how serious she was, and she was both serious and passionate. As she explained what she thought she wanted to do, I realized that she saw an opportunity to do something good and that I needed to help her. This was one of those make or break parenting moments. What I said next really mattered.

operationbb4

So then I called her Dad on the phone and said, “Hey, it would be totally cool if I spent a bunch of money on backpacks, right?” I told him why, what Thing 2 wanted to do, and he said yes. We had just gotten paid, so that helped. He really likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so that also helped. Not every parent would have the opportunity to say yes, and I knew we couldn’t fully fund what she wanted to do, but I knew we could buy the backpacks and I knew how I could help her achieve her goals. And I still have enough faith in humanity to know that there are indeed some people out there who would help me help her help others. I was not wrong and I thank you for that.

operationbb9

On the way home, I asked her what she wanted to name her project. She’s going through a space phase and everything with her is space related, so she said what about Books in Backpacks. Then she said, what about Operation Books in Backpacks. Over time it became Operation BB: Books in Backpacks. Having an operation is very space sounding. The books in backpacks part is just pragmatic. There were even a lot of space themed backpacks there! She also loves dinosaurs and sharks. Sadly there were no dinosaur or shark backpacks. A full 10% of the backpacks she selected were space themed, go figure!

So then we went home and I helped her make an Amazon Wishlist and she told me what some of her favorite books were and we got started. I had a couple of requirements. One, I wanted to help her make sure it was a diverse list. She’s met me so she got that part. Two, I told her I thought the books should be paperbacks because they are both less expensive for donors and often easier to carry. So a list was made.

At the TLA conference earlier this year, I met a real life astronaut and got her a book about astronauts signed by an astronaut. The space phase is not new and it is real!

At the TLA conference earlier this year, I met a real life astronaut and got her a book about astronauts signed by an astronaut. The space phase is not new and it is real!

astronaut2

Look, a real life astronaut!!

We talked about where we could donate the backpacks. I talked to her about children’s homes and foster care. We donate to the local food bank regularly and a few years ago The Teen and one of her besties did a project where they collected books to donate to the local food pantry’s backpack program, which I am sure inspired Thing 2’s idea. We posted online and we found a DFW person who hosts a foster kid closet. When kids are put into foster care, they often are moved from place to place with very few belongings and stuff their belongings into trash bags. This is one of the organizations we will be donating to. We have several places lined up that we can donate backpacks to and make sure they get into the hands of kids who need them.

We went to the dollar store and bought some coloring books. She wanted each backpack to have 2 books, a coloring book and colored pencils. A bulk order of colored pencils is on the Amazon Wishlist and she did received a box of them. She’s 9, she still likes to color. Also, coloring is very popular right now.

operationbb5

Thanks to some generous donors, we have already put a few backpacks together. Thing 2 was very excited to put the backpacks together. I mean, REALLY EXCITED. Two of the books on her list have fish on the covers and one of the coloring books had a fish on the cover, so she made sure those books go together. She did find some space themed backpacks and has some space themed books on her list. We bought Star Wars coloring books for those bags. Some of the backpacks are loosely themed, another thing that I found interesting about her thinking.

Then on Wednesday night, a tragic school bus accident happened near us. The local high school announced that they were collecting 40 backpacks and school supplies to replace those lost in the accident. The kids effected attended a nearby middle school. I took the remaining 27 backpacks that I had and dropped them off then stopped at the store to buy some more. Thankfully, as of right now, there are still a lot of the backpacks left and at such a good price.

She asked about continuing the project when there are no more backpacks and it looks like we can buy bulk orders of backpacks online for around $3.50 to $4.00 each in the future. They aren’t the fun designs we currently have, but they’re cool colors and such. She was happy with that.

operatonbb8

As I mentioned, she is going through a space phase so the same day we bought the backpacks her astronaut Halloween costume arrived. She hasn’t taken it off much at home. I helped her put together a flyer to promote her operation (done on Canva, I know some of you will ask) and she is, of course, in the costume. As a mom, my heart has been touched by how excited she is to do this, how compassionate she has been in thinking of others, and how creative she is in going full space themed here. I’ve got to admire her branding ability, without her even knowing really what branding is.

I also want to say, as a mom and a librarian, I have been excited to see her excited about books. You see, Thing 2 was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 2nd grade and reading has been and is a challenge for her. This is the first year she has really been excited about books. The struggles she has trying to read have left her often feeling “stupid” (her words, not mine). She’s behind her friends at school and she knows it. So I was stunned when she said she wanted to fill the backpacks with books and not say candy or stuffed animals or Legos, all things she also has a lot of passion for. This is the first time she is showing real interest in reading and seems to understand that giving another kid a book would mean something to them. My heart has grown ten sizes this week for a lot of reasons.

I don’t know if we will try and fill the 100 backpacks we have and be done or if we will continue. I just know that as her mom, I want to try and support her in this because I love how compassionate she is being. I love how excited she is. I love how she is thinking creatively and problem solving. And I love that we get to spend time together as we do this. I hope that not only is she learning and growing, but that she is building positive skills and memories that she will keep with her for a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone who has shared the information, sent us books, and sent her encouraging words. It means a lot to me as her mom and she has thought it was pretty cool herself. Maybe the younger generation will save us after all.

Speak Your Mind

*