New vending machine is stocked…with books!

Pic of students with book vending machine

It takes a special currency to operate the new vending machine at Northwest Crossing Elementary School. It’s not located in the cafeteria, it’s in the school library. Instead of snacks, it dispenses books.

To use it, students must earn gold coins that say “I love books.” They are kept in a treasure chest on the librarian’s desk and adults on campus award them to students who demonstrate character traits like kindness or respect. The dual purpose is to promote positive behavior and a love of reading.

It’s the first book vending machine in Northside ISD, and was funded by a Northside Education Foundation Innovation Grant in 2020. Six Northwest Crossing students earned the first gold coins in April and as they gathered in the library to use them, Principal Priscilla Siano cut a yellow ribbon tied around the machine.

Fourth grader Billy Bolding was the first student to approach, put his gold coin in the coin slot, and make his selection from the rows of options.

“It’s like a book from heaven,” he said while holding up his book from the Dog Man series.

Stacie Tharp has been a school librarian for 15 years, and has been at Northwest Crossing for the last two years. Her goal is to get books in the hands of her students and develop life-long readers.

“My favorite part is getting the books that kids want to read, and then giving them a copy for free,” said Tharp. “They never have to bring it back and can build their library at home.”

The vending machine is stocked with book choices for Pre-K up to fifth grade students. The grant also funded $1,500 in books and money earned from future book fairs will ensure it remains stocked.

“I love these kids,” Tharp said. “I try to get to know them and the books they love to read.”

This spring the District began a new reading campaign, “Northside Reads 21 in 2021,” to encourage students to read for 21 minutes every day in 2021. Immediately after receiving their books, the six students each found a spot in the library to start reading.

“Reading is like having a superpower,” Bolding said. “Open the book and let your imagination do the rest. My goal is to read every book the world. You can read anything you want, you just have to put your noggin to it.”