Unique challenge celebrates Ballard Elementary School’s reading accomplishment

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, April 2, 2019

NILES — During March Reading Month, Ballard Elementary School Principal Jeron Blood wanted to find a new way to encourage children to pick up a book.

So, he told students that if they could achieve a reading goal set by the school, he would give a kiss to a piglet to commend their achievement. Students accepted the challenge.

On Friday, during an assembly to cap March Reading Month, Blood gave a peck on the snout of a baby pig because students met their reading goal. The unique way to end March Reading Month was based on the book “If You Give a Pig a Pancake.”

To get their principal to kiss a pig, students had to read for five hours to earn a paper pig cut out. The cut out was then placed in a display case at the front of the school. If students could fill the case with paper pigs – Blood said he would fulfill his end of the challenge.

By Friday morning, the display case was filled with 572 pigs — meaning students completed a collective 2,860 hours of reading.

“That’s huge,” Blood said. “If you look at where our lower elementary kids can [go] with reading — that is a lot of reading for them.”

Blood said if he can take part in “gimmick” like kissing a pig to get students excited about reading, then it is worth it. Excitement is precisely what he saw, Blood said. Throughout the challenge, students were eager to share their reading progress. They would frequently tell Blood about where they were at in their reading logs.

“We live in a world where reading has so much to compete with,” Blood said. “I’m really happy the teams put this together.”

The assembly culminated a variety of efforts the school took part in this month in an effort to encourage children to read. Ballard students decorated their classroom doors to look like the covers of books and held a contest to see whose design was the best, and participated in costume days. 

Across the Niles Community School District, other schools also sought to motivate students to read for the occasion. Howard Elementary School offered a One School, One Book program, where the students followed along with a book together. At Ring Lardner, Amy Gourlay, the school librarian, opened a free bookstore for students, allowing them to pick a book of their choosing.

For Blood, the hope is that March Reading Month is just the first chapter for many aspiring book lovers.

“For me, the focus was to get kids valuing reading … so that it can carry through to future months,” Blood said.