Children’s books will soon fill foster family homes across North Idaho thanks to a new non-profit.
Frederick and Aleta Sonnenberg of Troy, Idaho started their nonprofit organization Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones to provide foster children with books and school supplies.
“We decided that with the research we had done, many children didn’t have books,” Aleta said. “We decided to remedy that.”
The Sonnenberg’s adopted son, Brandon, helped serve as the inspiration for the new non-profit, which became official last December.
“He also has his own story,” Aleta said.
Brandon spent some time in a therapeutic foster care program, where he was locked in a room with surveillance cameras, Aleta said. He had no toys or books. But at another home, he was given a book. That book, Aleta said, made all the difference in Brandon's life, instilling a love of learning in the young boy.
"He always carried it in his string backpack," she said.
When Aleta and Frederick adopted Brandon, he was five days shy of his 18th birthday and release from the foster care system.
Since Brandon’s adoption, he has moved back to Texas where he was in the foster care system.
“Although we took the boy out of Texas, we couldn’t take Texas out of the boy,” Aleta said.
The Sonnenbergs have always had a soft spot for kids. They decided to adopt Brandon after their other two children had moved out on their own. The Sonnenbergs have also hosted various exchange students over the years from China, India, Nepal and Mexico.
Their passion for helping kids drove Aleta and Frederick to provide books to foster children in North Idaho.
“The love of reading becomes the love of learning,” Aleta said. “We decided to do something about that.”
Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones seeks to provide about 400 children in foster families with library gift packs. The packs contain a book bag with 20 age-appropriate books, an uplifting wall poster, stickers, crayons and buttons.
The organization is also putting together online resources for the parents of foster children in an attempt to better prepare foster families.
“There are a lot of good loving foster care parents who are doing a good job,” Aleta said. “But many are not prepared.”
Aleta estimates that only about three percent of foster children go on to higher education. Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones attempts to help children 10 years old or younger become interested in learning at an early age.
Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones is hosting fundraisers to gain support for the organization.
The organization will host a free benefit concert, Jazz at the Naz, on Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. in the Moscow Church of the Nazarene.
The concert will feature two-time Grammy nominee pianist Mark Little.
“We have been incredibly blessed to have met Mark Little,” Aleta said.
Aleta met Little at a Texas Family Foster Association conference where he became interested in helping out Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones. Little also hosted a special workshop yesterday with jazz students from WSU and UI, as well as high school students from the area.
The free benefit concert is open to the public, but donations will support Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones.
“A $15 donation will buy a book bag with everything in it,” Aleta said. “Each donor can sign their name on a letter to go with the bag.”
Author and child advocate John Borgstedt will also speak at the concert about his personal experiences in an abusive childhood. Borgstedt wrote his autobiography, “I Love You Mom: Please Don’t Break My Heart,” in 2009.
Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones is hosting a screening of the film adaption of Borgstedt’s book produced by Sondra Martin Hicks on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Nuart Theater in Moscow.
The film is free and open to the public, but a donation for Brandon’s Libraries for Little Ones will be asked at the end.
“[The film] is to raise awareness,” said Borgstedt. “But it serves many different purposes.”