HELENA – Four mornings a week, a first grade classroom in Bryant Elementary School transforms into a bustle of curling irons, brushes and colored hair gel.
Students make an appointment at the Books and Beauty Salon and read aloud while they’re getting their hair done.
“So I got some curls and some pink, some purple and some red in my hair,” explains student and salon visitor Isabella.
Third grade teacher Erin Finstad saw the idea online and helped bring the salon to life at Bryant three years ago.
“The kids come in before school starts and read to a teacher in exchange for getting their hair done,” says Finstad.
The salon sees upwards of 12 clients a week.
Getting an appointment starts with a phone call to Finstad’s classroom, where eager appointment takers are ready.
“The student in my class answers the phone and they really learn some good communication skills, because they really don’t have a lot of experience on the phone, especially in that sense.” She continues, “that appointment card is their pass to come in off the playground, so it’s a little bit of responsibility that they have to learn.”
Finstad says about half of the staff members participate: taking turns and sharing their expertise in various types of styling.
Girls end up with ringlets and bows, braids and color — and that color is especially popular for the boys.
And while books are half of what makes up the books and beauty salon, Finstad knows it goes much deeper than that.
“The reading piece is huge, for sure,” says Finstad. “But I think it’s more about building relationships with these kids and having some time to spend with them one on one in a different setting than just in the classroom.”
Finstad says they are grateful for all of the support and donations from the community that help them purchase supplies to keep the salon going.
Reporting by Melissa Jensen for MTN News