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.