BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
Advice, discussions, and reviews from the
Parents of Teens weekly email newsletter.
Berkeley Parents Network >
Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults >
My son has started as a Freshman at BHS and I am a bit worried about the incredibly heavy
books he has to carry around. He takes the bus to school, so there is a lot of walking and
I was wondering if it is possible to get the electronic versions of these books so that he
does not have to carry all that weight. Has any family done that?
My daughter has bought a second book to have at home for biology and math and
other courses over the years. She found them on line and while I don't remember
how much they were, the cost was modest and well worth it. Saved her back. Then
she donated the book to school at the end of the year.
I told my daughters doctor that the heavy books were hurting her back and she
wrote a note requesting that my daughter be allowed to have a set of books at
home and a set of books at school.She did not go to Berkeley High,but her school
went along with it.
I feel your pain. Because my daughter has some learning issues, I decided to go
online and purchase used copies of the big textbooks she used. It was a very
modest expenditure and she could then highlight or use post-its and the books we
bought stayed at home. She left the school copies in her locker and took them to
class one at a time. At the end of the year I donated the purchsed copies to BHS
and they appreciated it. Use the ISBN number to order and you will get the right
edition. It was a good idea all around.
former BHS mom
I agree that the books are heavy! For about a week our son didn't have a locker
and he was lugging his books around with him. We bought our son used copies of
his books from Amazon. He keeps his school books at school in his locker, and
his copies at home. After the school year is over we plan to donate the extras
to the school. We got the tip from his BHS tour guide. Hope that helps!
My son is a freshman at Berkeley High. His back pack weighs 20 lbs., which is 20% of his
body weight. He has developed a back problem and I am concerned.
The heavy weight is partly due to the fact that he doesn't have time to go to his locker
to put things away so that he can have only the morning books or only the afternoon boks.
He also has organizational challenges, which makes it hard to sort these. Plus, he has to
carry all the books to and from home every day (to/from bus/car).
I have suggested he get a suitcase with wheels, but he insists that this would not work
due to the crowded hallways and stairs.
I am wondering if others have struggled with this issue and if you have found any
I feel your ''pain''. My skinny BHS softmore daughter has a backpack I can
hardly lift. She hoped to get to her locker at noon as a freshman, but lunch and
participating in clubs make that unrealistic. Some teachers do not seem very
understanding about not having your book every day if for some reason you don't
make it and she didn't want to stress on that every day.
If you have been at the school for Open House and tried to run between their
classes, you will agree the hallways are jampacked, stairs are a given and even
running across campus requires lots of stairs and uneven surfaces, so wheels are
not realistic. Wrenching your back lifting it over obstructions and keeping it
from tilting sideways on the curves is not ergonomic. Its like a Japanese subway
in there- the kids are literally touching shoulders and turning sideways to pass
one another, with only 6 minutes to get it all done.
Our partial solutions:
#1. Searched a long time for a supportive large backpack that sits contoured to
the body- we ended up with one designed for laptops. The more the material
itself holds things up (the stiffness and padding for the laptop protection
provides structure), the less your back has to make contortions as the load
shifts etc. Hers also has a support strap between the straps in the front. She
doesn't like to clip it during school but a guy might not care, and its great
for walking or taking bus after. It's sad she's outfitted to carry a bigger load
than a weekend camping trip but she hasn't complained with the new backpack
(which she was inclined to reject based on its businesslike appearance until she
tried it one day and never went back)
#2. We bought a used Algebra text, same title and edition, on Amazon for about
$10, so she is not dragging it back and forth. We got this idea from someone who
applied to have duplicates from the school system due to a disability. The $10
is a lot less hassle than the paperwork, etc. required, but the option is open
to you. Some teachers also allow kids to share a few spare texts in the
classroom or allow one kid in a working group to bring it, but we have not found
trading off with seat partners to be reliable either.
#3. Made her conscious of her posture- she was looking hunched even without the
backpack. If she's hunching she knows she needs to adjust the pack, not her
We are having the same heavy backpack issue at our middle school. I feel awful
when I see the kids so hunched over. I agree the wheelies are the best option (I
use one myself), but I understand it's harder when it's crowded and there are
stairs (and maybe the need to not stand out.) One mom recommended using the
hikers'-type backpack that provides the extra strap to go around the hips. Then
some of the weight can be re-distributed. She said that there are particular
backpacks recommended by chiropractors. (Maybe check the internet for
chiropractors assn?) The other thing I would recommend is just continually
encouraging your child to be aware of back health and ergonomic health as
injuries and extended computer use may only increase as they get older. I nag my
daughter on this, but she'll realize things like not to stuff her jacket in her
backpack because, despite how light it is when carried alone, it makes her
backpack feel much heavier. So, she'll tie it around her waist instead.
We solved the back pain problem by getting my son an Ivar backpack. They are
ergonomically designed and also good for organization. He is using his second
one in college now and didn't consider anything else when he needed a
replacement. We got his second one at a luggage store in San Rafael (good
selection and very helpful) but I recently saw one in the display window at
As a freshman at berkeley high, your son should be able to get to school a
little early and drop off afternoon books. Then at lunch time he should have
enough time to switch, unless he is going off campus to try to find lunch with
all the other students. Why dont you have him bring a lunch instead. Work on
something that the two of you can agree on. Other potential issues may be that
he wants to go to lunch with friends off campus and that is understandable.
Another potential issue is that he does not feel comfortable going to his locker
for some reason, and if that is the case then it is truly not a matter of not
enough time. Solutions are out there.
Another BUSD parent
Some of the text books are actually available on line. The teachers can give
you the sites and passwords. For the books not available on line, we bought a
second set of used text books from Amazon. We will donate them to the school
when finished. That provides some relief. Is it possible that he doesn't need
every book every day? A query to the teachers might prove useful.
I wanted to second the idea of getting a second set of books for home to limit the
heavy backpack. We have bought used textbooks over the years through amazon
(Calculus this year was 41cents! plus 3.99 for shipping. We'll pass it on to a
friend next year... Look in your child's book and enter the isbn number on amazon's
site and many used ones will pop up. We've done this for the major books going back
and forth (math, science). Good luck
Our teenage daughter just started ''Middle College'' High School. She
has TONS of heavy books. Does anyone have a recommendation for a
sturdy backpack that also has wheels for rolling? I've looked online,
and it seems like we'll have to spend close to $100 -- which is OK,
but if I'm going to spend that much, I hope I can get something of
good quality. Any suggestions? Thanks,
Try the L.L.Bean website to order a rolling backpack--many color
choices. About $80. Their wheels and zippers seem sturdier than
store-bought brands and if anything tears or breaks, they advertise
free replacement. If you don't like it, call because they pay for
return shipping. They have an outlet store in New Hampshire if
you're not particular about color--usually half the price.
An alternative to the wheeled backpack is to get the ISBN numbers off of your student's
books and do a search for used copies. Using the ISBN number ensures that you find the
correct edition. We found many bargains where the text was just a few dollars, sometimes
less than the shipping costs. We went this route for two reasons: first, so our daughter
wouldn't have to lug the textbooks back and forth to school, and second, to ensure that the
textbooks would always be available when needed and not forgotten in the school locker
over the weekend. It really worked well for us.
I know just about every high schooler has a heavy backpack, but my daughter is in
MIDDLE SCHOOL and her backpack weighs more than 15% of her body weight. (She
weighs about 90 pounds, backpack is maybe twenty on heavier days). It seems a lot
of kids have this issue, even in sixth and seventh grade. I am worried, a twelve-
year-old is NOT supposed to have this much. It really isn't an option to just buy her
home parts of her textbooks, for one, because she goes places and has to do
homework in other places besides the home, and two, those textbooks are about
seventy or eight dollars, and she's got probably five, so that's four hundred dollars,
which I'm not willing to spend, nor should I have to. Any reccomendations about
what we can do? It's just really bugging me, and I don't want her to have a back
brace by the time she is fourteen!
I agree that this is problematic. I would recommend a heavy backpack
with wheels, and a handle they can pull around. I've seen many
middle-schoolers with these.
My son is in 6th grade and only weighs 70 lbs. I also couldn't
believe how heavy his backpack is. We got him and his friend a
backpack with wheels. THe first one was cheaply made and didn't
last very long, but then I replaced it with one clearly more
durable and it works fine. They are both grateful. It only cost
How about a roller backpack? Let the wheels do the work, at least
most of the time.
Heavy backpacks are an ongoing problem these days. The books are
so heavy, and there are so many ofthem (in addition to binders,
folders, and all the after-school stuff the kids haul around).
Most experts suggest that 15% of body weight is a reasonable
limit for middle-school age (10% for younger children). So if
your daughter is carrying about 15% and not complaining of any
discomfort, it's probably o.k. But if it's often heavier, and/or
she says it feels very heavy or painful to carry, it's worth
making some changes. Despite the expense, you might consider
buying one or two books to have at home (you can often gind used
copies on line). She can do the other homework at her
after-school places, and the rest later. If she is going to be
with other classmates after school, doing homework together,
maybe they could agree to each bring part of the book-load. ANd
if your daughter has ongoing discomfort, be sure to make her
principal and teachers aware of it.
At my child's middle school, we organized a Backpack Awareness
Day to help educate both kids and staff about this issue (with
varyng results). I have several resources from that event that
I'd be happy to share with anyone.
Get a rolling back pack. Many kids have them. Do the kids have
lockers? What about a study hall? Time management and
organizational skills are also helpful at this age. Talk to
the principal too and or teachers about your concerns. There
should be designated test days for each subject and homework
can sometimes be completed at school to reduce having to bring
home another book. Ask the teachers to consider alteratives to
having to require homework out of the book each day. (former
middle school counselor)
Get a rolling backpack. Land's End has ones with cool colors and
designs. No one should haul that much weight on their backs,
especially not growing kids.
Our teen's school backpack must weigh at least 30 pounds
(a big binder and text book for each class). This hasn't
been a huge issue since we currently have a carpool in
place. Next year she'll be going to school via public
transportation. This will involve walking 10-15 minutes to
and from the bus stop. She refuses to consider a backpack
on wheels...too cool for that. The only thing I can think
of is getting lighter weight binders. Other suggestions?
Thanks so much.
Go to REI, and ask for a backpack with a belt around the
waist. It doesn't have to be a fancy and expensive
backpacking backpack. The weight of the backpack will rest
on the hips instead of the shoulders. For more weight on
the hip, relax the shoulder straps and let the backpack hang
loose on the hips. My son has long walks for his commute
and credits t=his backpack for saving his back.
TEACHERS - I HOPE YOU WILL READ THIS!
Carrying way too much weight is definitely an on-going
problem for students these days. Most experts agree that
most high school kids should not regularly carry a load
greater than 15 percent of their body weight (does your
daughter weigh 200 pounds?). There are two issues to
address - 1. keeping the weight down and 2. minimizing the
effect by selecting a well-fitting pack, and packing it right.
A few ideas for the first issue: if possible, buy a separate
copy of the heaviest textbooks to keep at home (assuming
there is a locker or other place to keep the other books at
school); encourage her to carry only what she really needs
each day (leave the magazines and multiple CD's at home) -
this may involve having her actually talk to teachers about
this; have her use her locker as much as possible, so she
only carries around a few classes worth of stuff at a time;
encourage frequent binder purges - again, she'll have to ASK
what school papers she needs to keep and have available at
school, what she needs to keep for studying, but can keep at
home, and what she really doesn't need any more (and tear
out finished pages from planners and spiral notebooks);
assuming she has a locker at school - keep a separate stash
of supplies such as pencils, highliters, binder paper, etc.
at school rather than lugging everything back and forth
(every ounce can help!); have her carry her lunch, sports
gear, etc. in a separate bag, carried in her arms, so not
all of the weight is in one place; try to discuss the issue
with teachers and administrators to see if they can cut down
on the number of heavy books that need to be in class each
day, remind kids to clear out old papers, and try to give
kids enough time to use lockers between periods.
As for the second issue, wheeled backpacks - even if she was
willing to use them - do not solve everything. Select a
strong backpack, ideally with ''snugger'' straps, so the load
will be compact. It should have well padded shoulder straps
(wear both!), and be adjusted so the bottom of the pack
rests in the lower back curve, low on the hips. Items should
be packed with heavier things closer to her back, and
arranged to keep them from sliding around. If possible,
choose one with a hip strap, and hope she will use it at
least for the longer bus-school treks. If she prefers a
messenger-style bag, be sure she wears it across her body,
with the weight evenly distributed, not slung over one shoulder.
Finally - if she experiences any neck or back pain, get it
checked by your health professional.
I worked on a ''Backpack Awareness Day'' at my son's school,
and I have some handouts and information I can forward to
anyone. e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, check out
I read somewhere that a study was done on school backpacks, which showed
that they have not increased in weight over the last thirty years, and most of
the trouble kids are having stems from too much time slumping in front of
Nevertheless, I find the amount of weight ridiculous. I can often hardly lift
my daughter's backpack. The weight of the textbooks is extreme. We're now
working on photocopying her big books chapter by chapter and putting them
in a binder for her to take as necessary. Schools and publishers like the
heavier glossy textbook paper, I believe because it's sturdier, but at the
expense of kids.
On a lighter note, on one occasion in middle school my daughter was
complaining about her heavy backpack, so we went through it and I
discovered a copy of the full three-volume Lord of the Rings that she'd
It's not a cheap solution, but you could buy copies of othe
heavier textbooks to be kept at home so your child could
leave the ''school'' copy at school in her locker or
classroom. (In my son's school, the school was able to buy
''classroom'' copies so the kids could leave the heavy books
at home and use the school's copies for class.)
this page was last updated: Nov 9, 2013
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network