Maconaquah Elementary School Principal Kelly McPike braids fourth grader Morgan Coleman’s hair as Coleman reads aloud. McPike mentors Coleman as part of a new program at Maconaquah Elementary School called Books and Braids. The program is designed to help students improve their reading skills as well as boost their self-esteem. Eric Stoff, stoffe@maconaquah.k12.in.us
Maconaquah Elementary School Principal Kelly McPike braids fourth grader Morgan Coleman’s hair as Coleman reads aloud. McPike mentors Coleman as part of a new program at Maconaquah Elementary School called Books and Braids. The program is designed to help students improve their reading skills as well as boost their self-esteem. Eric Stoff, stoffe@maconaquah.k12.in.us

By Eric Stoff, stoffe@maconaquah.k12.in.us

A new girls’ mentorship program at Maconaquah Elementary School is strengthening reading skills and self esteem through hair styling.

Books and Braids was introduced to Mac El this year, and the program pairs students with educators for weekly one-on-one meetings. Mentors style their mentee’s hair while the mentee reads aloud.

Mac Ell fifth grade teacher Tori Shone started the program with Instructional Assistant Ronna Grant after seeing another school implement something similar. They thought it would be a good fit for their school.

“We have several struggling readers that need morale boosts and positive feelings associated with reading,’ Shone said.

“This program positively impacts young girls by building strong relationships and rapport with teachers in the building that they may or may not have,” Shone said. “It makes school a more enjoyable place where they feel accepted.”

Evidently, students and parents agreed with Shone and Grant, because 22 students signed up for the program during Meet the Teacher night at Mac El in August.

Shone said her mentees leave each session with a higher self confidence that stays with them for the remainder of the day.

“They love getting extra attention and feeling ‘pretty’ after we do their hair,” Shone said.

Grant agreed.

“It's fun for staff because our days can get busy, and this is a fun and low key way to form positive relationships with students while encouraging learning,” she said.

Fourth grade student Morgan Coleman meets with Principal Kelly McPike on a weekly basis. She said their meetings are a highlight of her week.

“Mrs. McPike is fun and cool,” Coleman said.

Not only does she enjoy the time with her mentor, but she’s also improving her reading ability.

“Last year I was in Special Education because I couldn’t read very (well), but now I’m building up my reading level,” Coleman said.

Coleman also reads in class and at home, but she reads silently in those environments, and she thinks reading aloud to McPike is helpful.

Shone said she hopes the program grows in mentors and mentee students in the future/

“Many times, it's all about the mindset. If I can work to change that, half the battle is won,” she said.