Books for Kids Day backed by veteran just 10 years old Success: Jennifer Rennenkampf, a Columbia fifth-grader, is building on her success in Howard County by advising planners of the May 30 event in Baltimore.


A 10-year-old girl honored by the governor for organizing a drive that collected about 3,000 books for needy children has been advising a larger effort planned for this month by the nonprofit literacy organization Baltimore Reads.

On May 30 -- Books for Kids Day -- volunteers hope to collect at least 15,000 donated children's books at the Polytechnic Institute-Western High School parking lot in North Baltimore.

Jessica Rennenkampf was 9 when she organized the book drive at her Howard County school. She said it took two days to reach her initial goal of 300 books for the Baltimore Reads Book Bank. After nine days, the drive had exceeded that goal tenfold.

She ran the book drive almost single-handedly -- planning, making and distributing fliers and posters, writing to businesses and organizations to ask for donations of incentive prizes, and collecting the books.

Jessica's campaign was an outgrowth of her love of books. A voracious reader, the fifth-grader chose literacy as her topic for a yearlong enrichment project at Jeffers Hill Elementary in Columbia.

Through research, Jessica discovered that for children to learn to read -- and enjoy it -- they should be read to and have books at home. She also discovered that some children in the Baltimore area do not have books of their own and decided to do something about it.

Jessica said she recognized that it might be difficult to persuade children to part with their books, so she decided to give something in return -- writing to "anyone I thought might send something" to offer as prizes that might induce schoolmates and fellow 4-H Club members to donate books.

Of the many businesses and organizations she solicited, Jessica said, only two did not respond to her request.

For each book donated, Jessica handed out a slip for a prize drawing. One of the most sought-after prizes -- which brought in a lot of books -- was an autographed photo of Orioles star Brady Anderson.

Her efforts earned a citation and visit at school from Gov. Parris N. Glendening and so impressed organizers of the Books for Kids campaign that they asked her to be an adviser.

Baltimore Reads, a nonprofit group that promotes family literacy, has been collecting donations for its Book Bank since 1996. Its Bring a Book Day campaign last year collected more than 36,000 -- but fewer than 10 percent were children's books.

Because children's books are the most needed, Baltimore Reads refocused its efforts this year.

Books for Kids Day will be May 30, rain or shine. New and gently HTC used children's books will be collected from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at the Poly-Western parking lot at Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane.

With Jessica's book drive as an example, donors -- and volunteers, who are needed to help with the collection -- will be entered in a drawing for prizes including a baseball and other memorabilia signed by a literacy advocate, the Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr.

Sponsors WJZ-TV (Channel 13), Von Paris Moving and Storage and Sylvan Learning Systems are picking up the costs of the campaign.

Baltimore Reads is encouraging others to support Books for Kids Day by organizing drives at schools, clubs, workplaces and houses of worship, or by sending a check to the organization at 5 E. Read St., Baltimore 21202.

Information or to volunteer: Books for Kids hot line, 410-752-3595, Ext. 142.

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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