Unique vending machine adds muscle to Vale Elementary School reading program

VALE – Students at Vale Elementary School received a unique vending machine earlier this spring.

Instead of candy or energy drinks or soda, the new machine that sits in the Vale Elementary School library dispenses books.

The machine is an incentive to promote reading among students.

Theresa Meiwald, Vale Elementary School principal, said she stumbled upon the idea for a book vending machine while participating in a nationwide Facebook group of educators.

“One of the other principals, from back east, posted it. The picture had a website so I just pulled it up and thought that it looked like such a fantastic idea,” said Meiwald.

The machine cost $4,000 and was paid for with funds from a student body walk-a-thon conducted before the Covid pandemic. The first set of books – the machine holds more than 120 – was purchased with money donated to the library from the Lee McBride Memorial Fund, said Meiwald.

“We put it in the library over Christmas break. The first books dropped out of it Feb. 20,” said Meiwald.

The books are free. To get one, students earn points through tests and by reading books, said Meiwald.

“So, like kindergarten, they earn 10 points toward a free book. They get a token and put the token into the machine and get a free book,” said Meiwald.

The vending machine is popular, said Jody Sappe, elementary school librarian.

“I’ve never seen them so motivated. It’s been great,” said Sappe.

Miewald said more students are reading now.

“I am curious to see if it continues. My ultimate goal is to be able to have a book bank to continue our incentive program where we are giving away 20 to 30 books a week,” said Meiwald.

“Our goal is to build a culture of readers in our building. The more you read the better you get at it,” said Meiwald.

She hopes next fall to hand out a token for a free birthday book for each student.

Meiwald said if area residents wish to help support the reading incentive program, they can use an Amazon Wishlist set up by the school.

The Wishlist includes student favorites, book selections from teachers and classics. The books purchased for the vending machine are shipped to the school.

Interested individual can also simply donate money for books by contacting Sappe at [email protected].

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM – Available for $5 a month. Subscribe to the digital service of the Enterprise and get the very best in local journalism. We report with care, attention to accuracy, and an unwavering devotion to fairness. Get the kind of news you’ve been looking for – day in and day out from the Enterprise.