New Jersey Elementary School Has a Vending Machine That Dispenses Books to Stellar Students

LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images
LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images

At Leonardo Elementary School in Middletown Township, New Jersey, teachers give out gold coins to kids who win Student of the Month awards or exhibit other laudable behavior. The coins aren’t made of chocolate or anything else inherently valuable; instead, children insert them into a book-filled vending machine and choose their next riveting read.

According to NJ.com, a parent suggested the idea to PTA president Sandy Lamb after hearing about a similar machine in a Utah school, and the parents and administrators then worked together to secure the $3800 needed to purchase their very own Bookworm Vending Machine from Global Vending Group. It’s known as “Inchy” and can hold between 200 and 300 books, offering a wide array of reading material for every type of reader.

Principal Peter Smith told NJ.com that he hopes Inchy will encourage students to read outside the classroom.

“I view reading like a sport,” he said. “In the same way, you cheer students on and want them to be the best.”

It also positions reading as a reward, while other programs often use reading as the means to a reward. For example, Pizza Hut’s beloved BOOK IT! program motivates children to read a certain number of books in order to earn free pizza, with the rationale that they’ll learn to love reading along the way. Initiatives like those can definitely have a positive effect on young readers, but they also might imply that reading is something you have to get through in order to deserve the prize. In other words, you have to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert.

The book vending machine is an opportunity to teach children that reading actually is the dessert. Since it’s only been up and running for a month, it’s probably too soon to tell how Inchy has impacted students’ general outlook on leisure reading. The same can’t be said for other schools in the district, however; according to Smith, they’re already interested in getting their own book vending machines.

[h/t NJ.com]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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The Little News Ears Podcast Helps Keep Kids Informed Without Overwhelming Them

Little News Ears translates current events into kid-friendly terms so parents don't have to.
Little News Ears translates current events into kid-friendly terms so parents don't have to.
Ranta Images/iStock via Getty Images

Kids are often curious about things they overhear on television or in conversations around them, but trying to translate that information into a kid-friendly format isn’t always easy. That’s where Little News Ears can help.

The program, available both as a podcast and as a YouTube video series, explains intriguing news stories to children in a simple, upbeat, and often funny way. In it, a young boy named Bram, a futuristic dog-like being named BoxerBlu, and a loris named Otis cover everything from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step away from their royal duties to people mudlarking (hunting for treasure) along the River Thames. More serious topics, like the deaths of high-profile people, are presented “in the vein of Fred Rogers teaching children about the Kennedy assassination,” as the website explains.

Little News Ears was created by Dan Buck, a former primary school teacher who now serves as the Head of School at Tessa International School in Hoboken, New Jersey. While the focus of the series itself is to express the news in ways that preschoolers and elementary school students can understand without frightening or overwhelming them, the website also includes lesson plans, vocabulary lists, and other resources to help parents and teachers learn how best to educate children on current events.

Usually, Little News Ears is offered as a subscription service—$6 per month or $55 for an entire year—but Buck and his team have made the program, along with the supplemental materials for educators, completely free for as long as the coronavirus pandemic lasts. You can learn more about the site and sign up for free access here.