[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/21/art.obamareading.gi.jpg caption="President Obama read 'The Polar Express' to a group of 6 to 11-year-olds on Monday."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - A group of children got a Christmas-week visit Monday from President Barack Obama, who handed out cookies and read them "The Polar Express."
The unannounced trip to the Richard England Clubhouse and Community Center, a Boys & Girls Club of Washington, was a break from health care reform, climate change and other issues that have dominated Obama's focus in recent weeks.
About two dozen youngsters ages 6 to 11 sat on the floor as Obama took off his suit coat and read the book aloud from a chair in front, pointing to the pictures and providing dramatic emphasis to some of the lines.
Afterward, sitting forward with his elbows on his knees, Obama exhorted the youngsters to study hard.
"You guys have so much potential," he said. "One of you could be president one day, but it's only going to happen if you stay in school."
Saying they earned snacks, Obama handed out cookies shaped like Christmas trees, maple leaves, gingerbread men and even first dog Bo.
As Obama prepared to leave, one youngster gave him T-shirts for his daughters, Sasha and Malia, then asked the president to come back to play foosball, a table soccer game.
"You a pretty good foosball player?" Obama asked. "You know, I hate getting beat."
"I'll let you win," the youngster replied, and the two exchanged a fist bump.