Literacy with Lollipops At Carol Holt Elementary Builds Relationships & Reading Skills
A new reading and mentoring initiative at a Mansfield ISD elementary school is turning out to be a pretty sweet deal.
Carol Holt Elementary School’s Literacy with Lollipops launched this school year. The program encourages senior citizens to come to the campus. While there they spend time reading a book and talking to a child.
The senior women are called “lollis,” and their male counterparts are “pops.” The idea for the program was birthed in the summer months by the school’s principal.
“I had a vision last summer, and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a group of senior citizens come to Carol Holt and spend their time with our children?” said Principal Thelma Foster. “We learn so much from our grandparents—them reading to us, teaching us, telling us stories—that I was like ‘Oh my gosh. I would really like for them to share that with our students to build those connections and relationships.’”
A campus committee was created to determine how Literacy with Lollipops could be implemented. Things started to come together rather quickly after a teacher received a call from a group of senior citizens who wanted to start volunteering at the school.
“The Elks program contacted myself, and they let me know that they were wanting an opportunity to volunteer in the elementary campuses,” said fourth-grade teacher Heather Carson. “Then, our counselor came to us and said Bethlehem Baptist Church had some volunteers that they wanted to implement into the program as well.”
Fostering Positive Relationships
The children meet with their lollis and pops every Friday morning for approximately 45 minutes. It’s a time to read, talk about the day and foster positive relationships.
“I like working with the kids,” said Ray Tills, an Elks Lodge member and volunteer. “They get excited, they look forward to seeing you come, and they need a male influence in their lives.”
Tills is so close to his student that the child nearly cried when he saw that his pops was not on campus one Friday. The child later cried tears of joy when he spotted Tills coming through the doors a few minutes later.
“I walked in the doors, and he jumped in my arms. He had tears, and I had tears. He’s a great young guy, and I just enjoy working with him,” said Tills.
The Elks Lodge of Arlington donated $6,500 to the school to encourage the students to continue reading over the summer. Administrators plan to use the donation by giving each child a backpack with a book inside of it.
Holt Elementary currently has 25 senior citizens signed up for the Lollipops initiative. The school hopes to increase this number so that even more children can benefit from it.