MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — Fairytales of princesses, maybe a few talking frogs and all things magical is what 6-year-old Nyla Stotts loves most about many of the books she has read.
“I love all that fun stuff like unicorns are so fun,” she said.
In many of the books she reads there is usually a character who may not fit in because of how they look or because of their hidden talents just like Nyla.
“Sometimes I’m scared because I love to sing. It’s my passion,” Nyla explained.
But that fear isn’t stopping this 6-year-old who says, “I like being different."
Dawn Besteder, Nyla’s principal at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, says all kids feeling this way is crucial. She says it’s also one of the key skills they focus on.
“This is all new to them,” she said. “At this age, they do start to experience those things. How do I make friends? How do I get along with others? “
According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of girls suffering low self-esteem will likely become bullies and develop habits like smoking, drinking and eating disorders. The group says self-esteem among girls tends to drop more over time compared to boys.
It’s why Besteder agreed to partner with Saving our Daughters (SOD) and Saving our Cinderellas co-founded by actress KeKe Palmer. The group and its literacy program, Storytime Sessions Project Supported by Nielsen Foundation, uses “film, fashion culinary and literacy to help young girls overcome social barriers such as bullying, date abuse and other esteem slayers.”
The project’s 30-minute reading sessions include talkbacks focusing on fostering resilience, self-esteem and empowerment. They also explore social justice advocacy for girls of color, conflict management and self-care skills. Each session is also done with help from celebrity godmothers like Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley, who remembers not fitting in with the crowd.
“I think everybody has a Cinderella story,” she explained. “I think we should be reaching a lot more Cinderellas out there because they are there. And if they're watching, don't worry about that shoe. You fit, OK, you fit.”
As of now, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School is the only school in Northeast Ohio that partners with SOD. However, Ms. Besteder hopes the program will expand.