How can individual members of a community help children flourish in the classroom? One way is through mentoring. Scholastic’s nationwide mentorship program helps students boost their literacy skills while creating meaningful bonds with caring individuals. Our read-aloud mentoring program, which comes with books and teaching guides, is called R.E.A.L. — READ, EXCEL, ACHIEVE, and LEAD.
In this episode, in honor of National Mentoring Month, educator Christian Adair tells host Suzanne McCabe how the R.E.A.L. program has enhanced learning and community engagement in his Kentucky school district. “You want to be very thoughtful and purposeful when you engage the community,” he says. “You need to start creating a relationship before you ask [a potential mentor] to do something. You need to acknowledge their existence. You need to acknowledge that they’re worthy, and they’re wanted.”
Christian is the founder and director of Alpha League, a mentoring and leadership organization focused on underserved and marginalized boys and young men. He currently leads mentoring initiatives in the Fayette County Public Schools.
R.E.A.L.: Learn more about Scholastic’s read-aloud mentoring program.
Bridging the gap between the community and the classroom: Educator Christian Adair discusses the power of mentoring.
Christian Adair, educator and mentor, Fayette County Public Schools
“We have over 185 languages in our city of Lexington, and over 94 languages in our school system. Spanish is the second most spoken language…. Because of that, we wanted to be more inclusive and diverse in our literature, bringing in readers and volunteers to interact with our students.”
“We wanted our kids to have books with characters that looked like them. And we wanted students to have books with characters that didn't look like them.”
“We wanted our African American students to see men of color reading. But we realized that it was just as important for our teachers to see men of color reading. It was just as important as for our White female students to see men of color reading.”
“The students were benefiting, but I think the [mentors] benefited just as much if not more because they became educators, in a sense. They were connecting to our students, and they found themselves in that.”
“The books were reflective of our students, and that’s probably one of the most exciting things, when kids open up a book and say, ‘Wow, that’s me in that book.’”
“This program isn’t just about reading. This program is about the connection and the fact that I was there. I showed that I cared…. That’s when I realized I had to go get more men, especially men of color, to come in and read.”
“We were thinking literacy, literacy, literacy. But social emotional learning also took place…. We know that when you build family and community engagement, you build relationships with your students, and you’re able to reach them and educate them better.”
“One of the first books I actually read from cover to cover was about Malcolm X, and that wasn't until high school. I am 50 years old, so I didn't have that connection [before]. And the reading wasn't that fun. When I did read, it was a Sports Illustrated, it was about sports . . . because that’s what I was shown. That's what I thought I was supposed to be. And I didn't see the books about all the amazing accomplishments of African Americans to this country, not just to the African American community, but all the contributions that African Americans have made for everyone to do better in the United States.”
“We got to say that 56,000 books went home. We had over 500 new volunteers. We had over 150 men of color volunteering. We had over 50 businesses and organizations volunteering and competing to be in our schools.”
“Historically, men of color haven't felt very welcome in the schools. We haven't felt welcome because our interaction with school, according to the data, hasn’t been that great. When you create a welcoming atmosphere and an understanding that they have value, they can bring value to the school because they're going to bring a lens that isn't there. They're going to bring a cultural connection…. But you have to do it on purpose. You have to let them be themselves and tell them to bring their authentic self. Tell them to bring their stories.”
“You want to be very thoughtful and purposeful when you engage the community…. You need to start creating a relationship before you ask [a potential mentor] to do something. You need to acknowledge their existence. You need to acknowledge that they’re worthy, and they’re wanted. Sometimes, we only go after people when we want to ask them to do something for us, when there should be some type of relationship started before then.”
“We had high school students volunteering, too…. I envision those students continuing after they graduate. [Many are going to want to become] teachers, and we need more teachers.”
“Coaches were reading at football practice. I asked them to read for five minutes before practice starts. [I said], ‘They might not hear what you said, but they saw that you were reading.’”
→ Special Thanks
Associate producer: Constance Gibbs
Sound engineer: Daniel Jordan
Music composer: Lucas Elliot Eberl
→ Coming Soon
Remembering the Holocaust
World Read Aloud Day
Black History Month