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Storybook Holiday Inspires Lifelong Reading With Help of FSU Students, Alumni

Storybook Holiday Inspires Lifelong Reading With Help of FSU Students, Alumni
Breakfast With the Elves
Elf Olympics
The Elf Olympics

Every December since 2003, Frostburg State University students and a growing network of alumni volunteers have doubled as elves to bring out the joy of reading and the holiday season in children.

Storybook Holiday weaves the mission of the Children’s Literature Centre at FSU with Christmas and winter themes as one of the biggest events in the city of Frostburg.

Dr. Barbara Ornstein, associate director of CLC and a professor of educational professions, said the Saturday event attracts about 2,500 people to Frostburg to embrace the love of reading while getting ready for the holidays, thanks to the Children’s Literature Centre at FSU. Children practice their writing by sending letters to Santa, listen to holiday stories to encourage reading and spend time with a guest author.

“Storybook Holiday is all about the kids,” said Ornstein, who assumes the name Prancer that day, donning reindeer antlers with jingle bells. “When we decided to start this, CLC director Bill Bingman and I wanted to bring something to the city of Frostburg for children because the Children’s Literature Centre is all about building the lifelong love of reading and the education of our children.”

Children can have breakfast with the elves, jog in the Running of the Elves, make gifts for their families in a secret Elves Workshop, listen to stories and much more. The free event relies on donations and brings alumni and students from across campus to volunteer at the event.

“All the businesses pitch in. The students pitch in,” she said. “We could not do it without the Frostburg State University students. They are absolutely wonderful as volunteers.”

Elementary education major Lacey Jones of Hampstead has volunteered at three Storybook Holiday events. She loves that the day allows her to be part of the community. Jones worked at the Letters to Santa where children showed off their writing skills.

“It’s fun. It’s way more fun to do this than to write a paragraph on a piece of paper,” she added. “If they’re going to get their writing in anyway, this is the best place to do it.”

The event also features fun for big elves. The Elf Olympics finds out who has the right amount of magic for Santa’s Workshop by creating a toy out of egg cartons and paper towel rolls, wrapping presents, decorating teammates as a tree and excelling at a cookie toss. The team Rock Paper Elf took first at the 2015 event. The team was made up of students Jessa DiTullo, Chelsie McCoy and Paige Gray and 2012 graduate Nicole Rieland.

They say they love coming back for the event, getting into the spirit and even played the part.

“We want to be shrunk down, go to Santa’s North Pole and work for him,” Rieland said.

“That’s right, we’re going through elf training,” McCoy said. “We love Christmas!”

Storybook Holiday is also paired with a children’s book to tie in a theme. Will Hillenbrand’s “Snowman’s Story” was selected for 2015. The author and illustrator also dedicated the book to CLC and former graduate assistant Hannah Hare Harvey for her work with the Centre and assisting Hillenbrand when he visited FSU for conferences.

Hillenbrand spent time at the Frostburg Community Library during the event, sharing stories of his childhood building snowmen, and donated a vinyl cutout of his book cover where children could poke their head through and have pictures taken as a snowman.

Storybook Holiday surely captures the spirit of the season.

“It’s the best day of the year,” Ornstein said. “You can’t be in a bad mood on Storybook Holiday.”

For more information on the Children’s Literature Centre at FSU, visit For information about undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Education Professions, visit

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.


For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589