Santa came early this year loaded with enough books to give away to several hundred local children for the next seven years, thanks to the Los Molinos Booster Club, a $1,500 grant from Rolling Hills Casino, and the First Book and Heart of America organizations.
“The grant from Rolling Hills Casino enabled the Booster Club to establish Santa’s library, and provide each child who visited Santa during our annual Breakfast with Santa with a book of his or her choosing,” said Jill Botts. Children did not need to participate in the breakfast to visit Santa and receive the book. Books were also provided to the Rancho Tehama SERFF program.
The grant alone would not have sustained the program past this year, had it not been for the discovery of the First Book and Heart of America organizations through an Internet search by Botts for free or low cost books. Both organizations provide books at minimal cost to schools with a high percentage of low-income children. According to Botts, who is the President of the Los Molinos School Board, 85% of Los Molinos children qualify for free lunch.
“I was very impressed that instead of using the grant to purchase books at full price, Jill and the Booster Club were able to turn it into an investment for a sustainable program that will encourage literacy for years to come,” said Charles Ward, Superintendent of Schools for the Los Molinos Unified School district.
“Programs such as Santa’s Library that promote literacy are crucial to our school,” said Ward. “We know that important things happen for children as they transition from the “learning to read” stage to the “read to learn” stage. Children who haven’t learned to read by third grade are at a severe disadvantage, which can affect them for life. For youth to be capable readers they need more than reading instruction at school. They need to adapt reading habits, which are reinforced by a love for reading. Being able to choose their own book from Santa, instead of being given a book at random, promotes enthusiasm to read it and makes the present even more valuable to the child.”
“Had it not been for the grant, we would not have discovered these fabulous book programs,” said Botts. “We were able to purchase gorgeous, high quality, hard bound books that would have cost at least $18 for as little as 45 cents each.” The books included popular children’s literature, such as Artemis Fowl and Disney stories. The Booster Club purchased thousands of books to sustain the program for the future, which will be supplemented by purchases of new titles each year.
Botts credits the Los Molinos Booster Club for their hard work in making the Breakfast with Santa event a success. Honorary Mayor Kenny Brewer sat in for Santa and the elves included four high school students from the AVID program and an elementary student. A portable bookcase fabricated for Santa’s Library by Chuck Crossland displayed the books.
“It was such a joy for all of us working with the Booster Club to see the excitement of children, parents, and teachers about the books,” said Botts. “There is no bigger gift for the future than the ability to read, and we were all thrilled to see the look on the faces of the children as they opened the books they chose for the first time. These are books they can treasure for the rest of their lives.”
“Supporting education and the goals of Expect More Tehama is our biggest priority,” said Kate Grissom, marketing director of Rolling Hills Casino. “We are so pleased that our donation was the seed money for such a valuable program, and applaud the Los Molinos Booster Club for using the Breakfast with Santa event to promote literacy.
Community members wishing to donate to Santa’s Library can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Educators wanting to know more about obtaining high quality books at low cost can visit the websites: www.firstbook.org and http://www.heartofamerica.org/booksfromtheheart.htm.