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Jaden Lara and Mom are set to begin their reading adventures thanks to Santa and Southern Peaks Public Library's Friends of the Library.

Jaden Lara and Mom are set to begin their reading adventures thanks to Santa and Southern Peaks Public Library's Friends of the Library.

by Ben Reeves

This year, Santa has been keeping three lists: who’s naughty, who’s nice, and who needs books. In his visits over the years, Santa Claus has noticed that some children have a lot more books than others, and this year he decided to do something about it. Mr. Claus himself contacted me and told me about his plan, and so I found myself waiting outside in the cold with a throng of Christmas carol singing children on Saturday, December 20th.

I was at the La Puente home’s annual Christmas party. I had to hop over the fence and dodge children to enter the house. Once inside I talked to one of Santa’s elves, Heidi Reynolds-Stenson, to find out what was going on. Heidi told me that the party was put on every year by the La Puente home Outreach Service Center for neighborhood children and their families, as well as people staying at the homeless shelter. La Puente home provides presents for everyone that wants one at the Christmas party, children and adults alike. This year, though, Heidi said there was something extra happening as well.

Southern Peaks Public Library Friends of the Library assisted Santa Claus this year by giving 350 age appropriate books to Valley children. “They [the Friends of the Library] did a good job wrapping and labeling the books. They made it a whole lot easier for us,” said Heidi.

The Christmas book giveaway was the brainchild of Southern Peaks Children’s Librarian, Babette Reeves. According to Reeves, “Children in middle and upper class families have 200 books of their own. Children in lower income brackets have 0.4 books.” She continued to explain why the Friends of the Library had decided to give books away at the Christmas party, “The most important first literacy skill kids have to learn before they go to school is called ‘print motivation.’ Print motivation is a love of books, and you can’t love books if you don’t have books.” The Friends of the Library (and Santa) hope to give Alamosa children a better chance when they start school by giving them books now.

Outside, the excitement was building. La Puente director Lance Cheslock and Wayne Fuller led the children in renditions of ‘You Better Watch Out’ and ‘Jingle-Bells’ and other carols to guide Santa in. Volunteers gave out hot chocolate to children and adults alike. At last Santa arrived and the line of laughing children began to move into the house. Each child sat on Santa’s lap and received a wrapped toy and book.

While the children were receiving their gifts, I spoke with La Puente director Lance Cheslock. “The Christmas outreach party is a fifteen year tradition. We usually have 300-500 kids,” Cheslock said. “The Friends of the Library contacted us about giving age appropriate books. What better match than to use the magic of Santa to promote literacy… We always learn that this is the only Christmas that some of these kids have. It’s not always about food and shelter, but also about the joy of the season.”

Babette Reeves sets up Santa's books.

Babette Reeves sets up Santa's books.

Friends of the Library from Southern Peaks Public Library purchased and wrapped 350 books for Santa to give to children at the La Puente Christmas Party.  I got to assist and had a blast!

More later!

I think Ruthie has it right the first time! 🙂 Check it out and smile!

Maybe it’s not too late for this. Most you can probably pick up at your local library today or tomorrow, or in the “big city,” most bookstores will carry these titles. Otherwise, hit your favorite online bookseller now and be prepared for next year. 😉

From youngest kids to olders:

  • Merry Christmas, Ollie by Olivier Dunrea
  • Santa’s Stuck by Rhonda Greene
  • Little Rabbit’s Christmas by Harry Horse
  • Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root (good for Solstice)
  • The Wee Christmas Cabin of Carn-na-ween by Ruth Sawyer (Christmas & Solstice)
  • Hanukkah at Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky
  • The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh (elementaries will actually like this best; they’ll “get” the joke)
  • The Witness by Robert Westall
  • The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Pat McKissack
  • A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  • The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry

This quote encapsulates a goodly portion of what I love about Christmas (and perhaps what you love about your special holiday as well):

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

Hamilton Wright Mabie

Our ordering and processing schedule got thrown off a bit by the holidays so there will be a few more new books making their way out to the new shelves in the next few days.

The best of this batch? Yikes!!! by Robert Florczak. A boy goes on adventures and comes face to face (literally) with wild animals, leading to all kinds of one-word exclamations.

All kids would get a kick out of this book.  The pictures are big and bold, the boy’s expressions priceless, there are even notes in the back about the different animals. And at storytime yesterday, this book actually enticed one little boy out from under the table. 🙂

For any and all gift occasions throughout the year, try always to give a book. The unspoken message is “this is just as cool and fun as all those other things.”

Don’t have one yet? For ages 5 through 13 (and even up) I highly recommend:

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden and The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea Buchanan, Miriam Peskowitz, and Alexis Seabrook.

Both my boys have spent hours with both these books (yes, even the “girl” one). They are just sooooo much fun!

Just a heads up. There will be no Community Storytimes on Weds. the 24th and Weds. the 31st as well as no Toddler Times on Friday the26th and Friday the 2nd. Regular schedules will resume the week of Jan. 4th.

Ok, I didn’t get enough response on this from ya’ll so here’s MY list for BEST BOOKS read in 2008. 🙂

Children’s Picture Book

  • Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman

Juvenile Fiction (Chapter book or Novel)

  • Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

Young Adult Fiction

  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Young Adult Non-Fiction

  • Seductive Delusions by Jill Grimes

Juvi Graphic

  • Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates by Kevin O’Malley

Young Adult Graphic

Adult Fiction (I limited myself to 3 but check my Goodreads list to see more of my 5 stars!)

  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

    And certainly, if you reply (use the comments tab above or email me your list), I’ll add yours to the list as well.

    Ok, so your kiddo’s watch their favorite movie and ba-zillion times. Can they tell you the story back?

    But before they start, get the video camera out and capture the telling. You don’t have to post it on YouTube as this family did (Star Wars according to a 3 year old;) but it will make a great treasure later or a marvelous gift now (I have cassette tapes of the boys reading nursery rhymes that were given to me as Christmas present).

    Annnd you can feel good for encouraging early literacy development of “Narrative Skills.”

    (If you do post, let me know ;-))

    Print Motivation is the first skill children must develop in order to be able to learn to read later.  PM is simply put a love of and interest in books. If you are not interested in books, you are not going to be very motivated to want to spend time with them, figuring them out and learning to read them.

    How is PM developed? Children grow to love books when they spend enjoyable time with a caring adult and a book “just happens” to be involved. The enjoyment and pleasure factors are built around the time spent together with someone who loves them, cares for them, and gives them their undivided attention for even just a few minutes. You really are your child’s favorite “toy!”

    So there’s these good vibes happening between you and a kid AND there’s this thing here too, a book.  Those good vibes get associated with the book since it is present in the same time and space.  It’s that simple.

    How do you encourage that association that will grow into PM? Spend even just a few minutes every day with your child and a book–and it’s never too early (or too late) to start!

    • Keep it fun.
    • Stop when it’s not fun.
    • Follow the child’s lead.
    • And no fussing allowed.

    Other factors that encourage PM include:

    • Having lots of books around and handy (don’t stick them up on a shelf).
    • Letting your children see you reading especially men.
    • If you don’t know how to read or reading is not fun or even difficult, pretend to read anyway! It’s that important!

    Powerful message; powerfully told–words become the visual as well as the aural messengers for this version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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    Contact Info for Babette

    email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
    snail mail
    73 State Avenue
    Alamosa, CO 81101

    Blog with Integrity

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