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Holiday Reading

Mrs. Claus promotes reading at headquarters library

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Local children sit quietly, and listen to “Mrs. Claus,” as she reads a Christmas story. The “real boss” of the North Pole drew dozens of children to the Headquarters Library.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Local children sit quietly, and listen to “Mrs. Claus,” as she reads a Christmas story. The “real boss” of the North Pole drew dozens of children to the Headquarters Library.

Mrs. Claus doesn’t deliver presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve, like her famous husband does, but she can bend his ear to tell him which little boys and girls have been good this year.

And, Mrs. Claus was in Clayton County this week to check in on local youths. The woman who is the real boss of the North Pole, visited the Clayton County Library System’s Headquarters Branch, in Jonesboro, on Tuesday, so children could enjoy “Cookies and Cocoa with Mrs. Claus.”

She read holiday-themed stories to the youngsters, and they sang songs, watched a puppet show, and enjoyed some cookies and cocoa. This is the fifth year the library has hosted a visit from Mrs. Claus, according to Bea Mengel, the branch’s youth services librarian.

“No. 1, we always want to incorporate some sort of literature into everything we do, to show the value of reading during the holidays or any other day,” said Mengel, who is “friends” with Santa’s wife. “We know that we’re going to get good attendance ... and it’s the holidays, and what better time to talk about the gift of books.”

The annual visit from Mrs. Claus is traditionally a popular program with local children, with waiting lists needed because of the number of people who sign up for the event. It has become so popular, in fact, the library had two sessions this year, to accommodate more people, according to Mengel.

The second session alone drew a crowd of approximately 40 children, and Mengel said the first session drew a similarly large crowd. She said the format also changed from “Breakfast with Mrs. Claus,” where youths ate waffles with the guest from the North Pole, to “Cookies and Cocoa with Mrs. Claus,” where the youths got a handful of cookies, and a cup of cocoa, because it allowed more youths to attend.

“Because there are so many people, we didn’t want to turn anybody away,” she said. “Since the Clayton County schools are off, we get more of the school-aged children. We figured it would be a big crowd.”

As the children began filing in, at the beginning of the program, many of the younger children, under the age of five, sat and stared at Mrs. Claus with wide-eyed wonderment as she talked about life at the North Pole. She garnered similar stares from some of the youngsters at the end of the program, when they had a chance to have their pictures taken with her.

Despite some changes to the food portion of the event, at its core, it still revolved around Mrs. Claus reading books to the children, and leading them in the singing of Christmas carols. A new event for this year was the reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by a pair of puppets controlled by teenagers who are volunteers at the library.

“It was fun getting to meet Santa’s wife,” said Riverdale youth, Ainsley Echoles.

Local youngster, Moriah Plange-Ogoe, said, “I liked it when she read the books.”

Jonesboro youth, Ezekiel Sarratt, 4, said he enjoyed getting to meet Mrs. Claus, because “I liked eating the cookies.”

Ezekiel’s younger brother, Jedidiah Sarratt, 3, quickly added: “Me too!” before pondering what else he liked about the program for a few seconds. “I also liked seeing the puppets,” he eventually said. Their younger, 4-month-old brother, Zachariah, also got to visit Mrs. Claus.

As she finished up her annual visit to Clayton County, she stood up, and with a big smile, told the children she was going to brag to her famous husband about them. “When I get back to the North Pole, I’m going to tell Santa how you were all very-well-behaved boys and girls,” she said.