October 23, 2021

Tastes like bacon

Reading goal met, principal puckers up

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Appleby Elementary School Principal Jonathan Hillis kisses “Runty the Reading Pig” Wednesday in Marathon while celebrating first-graders’ achievement of reading for pleasure for 20,000 minutes.

MARATHON — The gymnasium at Marathon’s Appleby Elementary School was brimming with squeals of all sorts Wednesday morning — delight-filled squeals of children and terrified squeals of two piglets.

The pigs, who were brought in by members of Daisy Hollow Farm in Dryden, were there to be kissed.

That’s right — kissed.

Principal Jonathan Hillis was the one doing the kissing — as a reward for the 50 first-graders having met their reading goal of collectively reading for pleasure 20,000 minutes from Jan. 29 to March 30. That works out to just shy of seven minutes a night that each kid had to set aside for reading.

The event was much anticipated. The gymnasium, full of first- through sixth-graders, roared with cheers and laughter, then squeals of delight and awe at the sight of the two 5-week-old pink piglets: Runty and Pinky.

The two piglets may have found their calling, said Emily Harding of Daisy Hollow Farm. Together with Nathan Jauvtis, she was showing the piglets to all the first-graders in a classroom after the kissing and she said the event was just their debut.

Appleby Elementary School first-grader Sophia Prentice watches as Principal Jonathan Hillis makes good on a promise and kisses “Runty.”

Harding wants to bring the pigs — who were both runts of their litter and therefore still very small — to other schools in the area to be kissed by other principals. She wants the event to prompt book donations for the participating schools, something she said she is still working to bring to fruition.

First-grade teacher Johanna Dunham said the pig kissing was a reward the children thought of. The first-graders came up with different rewards the whole school could partake in, once the first graders hit various levels of reading — a dance party for 10,000 minutes, and the pig kissing for 20,000.

“And here we are, 30,000 minutes later, kissing pigs,” she said.

Emily Harding, of Daisy Hollow Farm in Dryden, holds “Runty the Reading Pig” on Wednesday. “Runty” was there to be kissed by Appleby Elementary School Principal Jonathan Hillis — a reward for the students’ reading achievements.

The school is now on its way to 52,000 minutes, with fourthgraders having taken over the reading challenge.

They want to read another 20,000 minutes to earn a picnic in the park when they reach 40,000 minutes. In total, the school children have now read for 32,593 minutes.

The event, besides being fun and educational, said Dunham, has an important lesson.

“It’s just to encourage reading, and bring awareness to the kids that if they read, good things will happen,” Dunham said. “It’s a reward for a job well done.”