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]

Phoenix High School Builds Laundry Room to Assist Underprivileged Students

harmpeti/iStock via Getty Images
harmpeti/iStock via Getty Images

At Maya High School in Phoenix, Arizona, a large closet off the cafeteria has been converted into a laundry room called “The Missing Sock,” complete with a washing machine, a dryer, and even laundry detergent—no quarters or cards needed.

According to AZFamily, principal John Anderson came up with the idea after realizing that many of the school’s students—more than 30 percent of whom are homeless—were reluctant to even show up for school simply because they didn’t have a way to wash their clothes. After talking to one student in particular, who explained that his family wasn’t providing him with the basic resources he needed in order to succeed in school, Anderson decided it was time for the school itself to step up.

So, with the help of grants from the Leona Group, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Fiesta Bowl, Anderson and his colleagues built their own miniature laundromat, much like West Side High School in New Jersey did last year. If similar endeavors elsewhere are any indication, Maya High School could see a pretty significant quantitative impact on attendance: Schools that received appliances from Whirlpool as part of their Care Counts program, for example, saw a two-day rise in attendance rates for chronically absent students and a staggering increase in class participation.

“I come from a homeless background,” Maya High School special projects coordinator (and graduate) Andreya De La Torre told AZFamily. “Coming to school smelling, kids don’t want to be by you. They are talking about you. And it’s just really hard to focus on your education when you are focused on your self-esteem.”

In addition to giving underprivileged kids easy access to clean clothes, “The Missing Sock” is also a symbol of Maya’s commitment to providing its students with more than just academic skills.

“We offer them life skills to teach them things that someone is probably not teaching them on the outside … and to show them love,” De La Torre explained to AZFamily.

“We make them believe in themselves and want to do it for themselves,” Anderson added.

And it doesn’t stop at the laundry room—Maya High School just earned another grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks, which Anderson will use to install showers in the school, too.

[h/t AZFamily]

New Jersey Is the Latest State to Push for Cursive in the Classroom

Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images

If you happen to have spent some time with kids who graduated from elementary school in the last decade or so, you may notice they have little idea how to form the graceful Gs and 2-shaped Qs of cursive—or any other cursive letter, for that matter. The cursive alphabet was cut from the Common Core curriculum in 2010, and it’s been making those of us who learned it feel old ever since.

However, a number of states—most recently, Texas—have elected to reintroduce cursive into schools in the last few years, and New Jersey is hoping to follow suit. According to WPEC, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight is sponsoring a bill that would require students to master reading and writing in cursive by the end of third grade.

“Our world has indeed become increasingly dependent on technology, but how will our students ever know how to read a scripted font on a Word document, or even sign the back of a check, if they never learn to read and write in cursive?” McKnight asked in a press release. “This bill will ensure every young student in New Jersey will have this valuable skill to carry with them into adulthood.”

Opponents could make the argument that physical checks and scripted fonts are well on their way to becoming relics of the past right alongside cursive literacy, but it’s not just real-world applications that make learning the loopy alphabet such a valuable skill.

“Some research suggests that learning to read and write in cursive benefits the development of cognitive, motor, and literacy skills,” the bill says. “In addition, instruction in cursive handwriting has been associated with improved academic outcomes for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.”

It may also increase your SAT scores, improve your spelling, and more—read about its other benefits here.

[h/t WPEC]

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