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.”