Seventh-grader is on a mission: Fill school libraries with books

BOOK DRIVE KICKOFF—Wearing her 2011 Miss California Pre-Teen crown and sash, seventh-grader Olivia Jensen stands with Olive Peirce Middle School Librarian Melissa Cobian as other students sample some of the 153 books Jensen donated to the school library to kick off her drive to fill Ramona’s school libraries with books. Sentinel photo/Dixie Pettit
BOOK DRIVE KICKOFF—Wearing her 2011 Miss California Pre-Teen crown and sash, seventh-grader Olivia Jensen stands with Olive Peirce Middle School Librarian Melissa Cobian as other students sample some of the 153 books Jensen donated to the school library to kick off her drive to fill Ramona’s school libraries with books. Sentinel photo/Dixie Pettit

By Dixie Pettit

Ramona seventh-grader Olivia Jensen is on a quest to fill Ramona Unified School District’s school libraries with

books.

Jensen, 12, jump-started the drive on Thursday, Nov. 3, with what she hopes will be a “first wave” of donations flooding onto district shelves.

“This donation means a lot to Olive Peirce Middle School),” Melissa Cobian, the school’s librarian, said about the 153 books Jensen donated. “We have not received any money for new books in three years. The kids are always coming in and asking, ‘Do you have any new books?’ and now we do. Look at these! They’re beautiful!”

According to Cobian, by reading for one hour a day, in a year’s time “You will increase your reading speed and fluency by 50 percent.”

When asked what inspired Jensen, her mother, Catrina, said it began with a study in statistics. When Jensen wanted to know what statistics were, her mother used an example of literacy in California. Both mother and daughter were shocked to discover the percentage of California students unable to graduate due to illiteracy.

“Thirty-three percent of California students won’t graduate because they can’t read,” said Catrina Jensen. “Eighty percent of kids who drop out of school because of illiteracy become repeat offenders. Olivia’s mouth just dropped and she told me, ‘Mom, that’s too much.’”

Mother and daughter set to work to provide books to local school libraries.

The book drive will continue through the year for as long as people will keep donating them.

“We will have boxes to collect new and gently used books in front of Albertsons, Quiznos, Stater Bros., and of course at all of the schools,” said Catrina Jensen.

A Facebook page for Olivia Jensen, posted on the Olive Peirce website, talks about the pre-teen’s fight for literacy.

Jensen is 2011 Miss California Pre-Teen. In addition to the book drive for schools within the district, she is starting a toy drive for Rady Children’s Hospital. this is in addition to her volunteer hours, fundraising activities for various organizations and pageant obligations.

“I am just trying to do something to help,” said Jensen, who talked with Congressman Duncan Hunter about her concerns about illiteracy.

“He told us the best thing we can do to help the schools is to be vigilant about this and bring the need for books into the limelight and to get the public involved,” she said.

Jensen has been sharing her vocal talent at Ramona functions for several years. Discovered at a Ramona Idol event by voice coach Gin Boughner, she hopes to be a professional singer one day. Those who have heard the young dynamo sing say the petite mezzo-soprano is already a singer, “with the voice of an angel.”

This is quite an accomplishment, her mother said, considering she was three months premature and doctors expected her to have cerebral palsy and scholastic struggles.

Jensen, part of the “4.0 Nation” program for scholastic achievement at the middle school, has no intention of slowing down in her fundraising endeavors.

“She raises her own money from sponsors to participate in the scholarship pageants,” her mother said. “She volunteers at telethons, fundraisers and at Rady’s. She is a very passionate girl.”

Look for donation boxes around town, or for more information about donating books or toys, contact Jensen at 760-440-3155.

   
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