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The Hog Mollies right at home in our second-grade classrooms

Second-graders in Kathy Kranch’s classroom at Sherman Elementary School gather around Larry Gibbs, Mansfield City Schools’ public relations coordinator. Gibbs had just read “The Hog Mollies and Little Lily’s Legacy” to the class.

      Second-graders throughout Mansfield City Schools have become fast friends with the Hog Mollies – Duke, Sprout, Hoppy and Harley.

      Since October, 13 volunteer readers have been enthralling the children with the adventures of the four colorful cartoon characters in stories that teach life lessons of respect, sharing, kindness and helping each other.

      “I am hearing from teachers throughout the district how excited our second-graders are about the Hog Mollies,” Superintendent Stan Jefferson said. “The program has a two-fold purpose. First, we want to stimulate an ongoing interest in reading among the children when positive role models visit their classrooms to read to them. Second, each month every second-grader receives a copy of the book to keep.”

      The Hog Mollies books, which now total 12, are the product of the 2nd and 7 Foundation started 20 years ago by former Ohio State University football players Mike Vrabel, Luke Fickell and Ryan Miller.

      Jefferson, an assistant coach under Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, has been familiar with the foundation for years.

      “The foundation got its name in 1999 when Vrabel, Fickell and Miller began promoting literacy by reading to second-graders in seven Columbus schools,” Jefferson said. “Over the next two decades the 2nd and 7 program has expanded to 26 states. More than 400,000 free books have been distributed to second-graders.”

      Football enthusiasts will recognize Vrabel, a former member of the New England Patriots, as the coach of the Tennessee Titans who will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game on Sunday. Fickell is head football coach at the University of Cincinnati. Miller is active in the foundation and helps to write the books.

      The volunteer readers follow a format of two visits to the same classroom each month. They read the Hog Mollies adventure and discuss it with students on the first visit, then return the following week to review the story and help students complete written activities in their copies of the book.

      For example, in “The Hog Mollies and Little Lily’s Legacy” a page at the end of the story features a tree that has three blank leaves. “Hey, kids!” says the page, “Great things can grow from planting a tiny seed. What little things can you do that make a big difference? Use this tree to show your ideas. Write your 3 best ideas in the blank leaves.”

      “I’m so glad we could bring the Hog Mollies to Mansfield,” Jefferson said. “The kids show their excitement as the stories are read to them. They love to share their thoughts about what they have heard. Then, one by one each month, they have a collection of Hog Mollies books to keep and re-read at home.”

      February’s book is titled “The Hog Mollies and the Pickle Pie Party.” An intriguing title, don’t you think?

      By the way, “Hog Mollies” is a nickname sometimes given to burly football linemen.

      The volunteer readers include:

Board of education members Gary Feagin, Sheryl Weber and Renda Cline.

Judy Forney, former board member

Andrea Moyer, director of school improvement

Jonathan Burras, director of special education

Winston Greene, district testing coordinator

Veronica Payne, gifted and talented coordinator

Stephen Rizzo, chief academic officer

Holly Christie, director of student support programs

Mark Wilcheck, human resources director

Larry Gibbs, public relations coordinator

Shriley Jordan, Oasis of Love Church 

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