Dec 23, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterA lot of children wrote to Santa from school this year, crafting their wish lists during letter-writing events that teachers organized in preparation for the holiday season.
At Ashgrove Elementary School, Title I specialist Kerri Peil said this month's "family fun night" gave parents a chance to see the progress their children have made in reading and writing.
"The idea is parents learn to help their children at home," Peil said. "A letter is a perfect opportunity to show them what real life looks like. (And) for a child to see their parent helping them."
Of course, there was extra excitement due to the involvement of Santa Claus. After finishing her dinner in the cafeteria, 7-year-old Jordynel Anderson rushed toward the mailbox labeled "North Pole" and flung the door open to see what was inside.
"I want a big Barbie house, a phone, new socks, and pants," she said, while her 4-year-old brother Beau Anderson announced that he asked for a "big motorcycle."
First letter ever
Down the hall in kindergarten teacher Cindy Coyne's classroom, 5-year-old Kyra Lyles had just finished her letter to Santa. She brought the piece of paper to show Coyne, who asked Kyra to read the letter out loud.
"Dear Santa," Lyles said. "I have been good. I want a baby doll. I want a princess. I wish I have a good birthday. I want a gingerbread book."
Her dad, Jesse Lyles, also had written a letter, but he refused to read it for Coyne, or his family. He did share one of his requests, however.
"I asked for a new bow so I can shoot a reindeer with it," he joked.
Wife Julie Lyles said this was Kyra's first time writing a letter, to Santa or anyone.
"We've done thank-you cards, but never a full letter," Julie said. "This is good experience."
Coyne said the evening exercise was "fantastic" because it got families involved in the writing process. Children also tend to be pretty motivated when they sit down to write a Santa letter, she added.
"Getting ideas for them is pretty easy at this point," Coyne said.
Gabby Robinson, 6, had prepared a pretty long list for her first note to Santa, including an iPad, cookie dough, and a little bit of niceness from her brother.
"Look what I wrote down," she said, showing her letter to her mom, Michaela Robinson. "Look at all that."
Letter in Braille
Gabby sat across the table from classmate Krysta Hubbard, 5, who was working with mom Shanell Hubbard and teacher Charlene Blackburn to write a Braille letter to Santa. Krysta is visually impaired, but Blackburn said the girl will be able to read her own letter to Santa as she learns to read Braille this year.
"When she gets to the bottom she's going to Braille her own name," Blackburn said while she typed out the bulk of the note on a Braille typewriter.
Though she couldn't see the paper, Krysta knew what she had asked Santa for.
"I want a Care Bear movie, a dollhouse movie, dollhouse play toys and Care Bear toys," Krysta said.
Shanell was happy they decided to participate in the school's family fun night event this month.
"I love it," she said. "It's been nice for us to have dinner and come to her environment, see her place. Hopefully Santa will help her with her needs."
Rita Allred, the Title I specialist at Jackson Elementary School, also planned a letter-writing event for her students this year.
"We have a new curriculum in writing, so we wanted to do something different," she said.
Teachers had helped her prepare for the evening, setting out snacks and hot chocolate as well as pencils, paper, envelopes, stickers and helpful suggestions for students who may be new to the process. Writing ideas were displayed on a poster board, prompting children to ask Santa about his reindeer, or to tell the man how he can get into the house.
"Tell Santa why you love him," one note read. "Let Santa know if you have been naughty or nice."
Six-year-old Madison Bower felt pretty confident about her rapport with Santa: Last year, when she asked for a Hello Kitty doll, she got it. Aunt Amy Ward wasn't sure about this year's request, though, as Madison had asked for a chocolate Labrador retriever to go with their yellow one.
"We'll see," Ward said with a smile.
Twins Kyle and Karson Mann, 7, had planned their lists in advance so their gifts would go together. For Kyle, Santa will bring a Green Bay Packers jersey, with a Denver Broncos jersey coming for Karson.
"They both like the Packers, but they want both (teams) so they can play each other," mom Audrey Mann said.
The boys also had told Santa they had been good this year, and they asked if he was still making toys.
On another side of the room, grandma Evelyn Veria said Santa letters are an important part of the season. Her granddaughter Lorena Juarez, 7, had apparently insisted on coming to Jackson Elementary be part of the fun.
"She had to write a letter to Santa," Veria said. "This is what she had to do today. Because she wants a kitty cat -- and what color?"
She turned to Juarez, who shyly whispered, "Orange."
Sitting nearby, mom Cyndee Wright said she appreciated the chance to bring her daughters to the school for the activity.
"I love this," she said while Chloe Wright, 6, and Piper Wright, 2, busied themselves with their letters. "It's so nice to come out with the family."