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Students receive surprise visit from Santa delivering books


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SALT LAKE CITY — About 800 students have a great answer when their parents ask them, "What did you do in school today?" They got an early Christmas visit from Santa in the middle of math class.

Every class at Redwood Elementary got a visit, a book and an important message for the holidays.

"That Santa is real and we should read," said student Melissa DeSpain.

Kindergartners squealed when Santa made his grand entrance. Older kids hovered between excitement and skepticism. But all the students seemed excited to receive new books.

In fact, Principal Leslie Bell said many of her students don't have any books books at home. So the gift was one that would make a difference.

"This means so much to every one of the kids," she said. "When you look in their faces and you see the surprise when Santa comes in and the fact that they get to take a book home, it's just so valuable."

The book delivery was a Christmas gift that came full circle. The books were donated by Discover Books, a company which collects used, donated books and re-distributes them to children in need. So, many of the beautiful Christmas books that went home with students at Redwood, were dropped in donation bins from Utahns.

"This is exactly why we do this," said Discover Books Plant Manager Chrissy Fredericks, as she passed out books. "The looks on the kids' faces is very rewarding for us."

Redwood Elementary takes part in KSL's Read Today program, which matches up struggling readers with AmeriCorps tutors. In addition to helping kids read, the initiative aims to raise awareness and excitement about the possibilities reading offers.

No one raises reading to rock star status, better than Santa. The surprise visit scenario played out repeatedly, first in the main hallways, then out the portable classrooms on the playground. Yes! students had been good. Yes! they would like a present. One class even gave Santa their wish lists.

And as students hugged Santa and their books, one of the literacy coordinators for The Granite School District got a little choked up.

"Sorry, I get emotional," said Karen Robinson. "My goodness, because kids need books."

To learn more about our reading initiative go to readtoday.com.

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Deanie Wimmer

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