UMATILLA, Florida — This vending machine isn’t dispensing sugary treats, fatty chips, or high-calorie sodas. It’s dropping knowledge.
An elementary school in Umatilla, Florida, unveiled the machine this week as part of the state’s literacy week. They held a pep rally for the event, singing and dancing before the reveal.
“The kids were so excited, they were trying to buy books out of it before we even unveiled it,” said Umatilla Elementary School Principal Dianne Dwyer.
When the students are kind, get their homework done, or simply make good choices, they are rewarded with “Bulldog Bucks.”
Then they go to the school’s media specialist, Susan Caldwell, who oversees the library, book fair, and this new vending machine. She takes their ‘bucks’ and gives them coins to use at the machine to select their book of choice.
Caldwell had seen a post online from another school in Buffalo, New York, and thought it would be a great way to build excitement around reading and collecting books.
“We call them ‘forever books,'” Dwyer said. “Because we want the kids to take them home, read them with friends, share them with family. It’s a free book for them to keep.”
The books are a variety of reading skill levels and ‘cost’ 50 cents.
“But really, it doesn’t cost them anything, they just have to make good choices,” Dwyer said.
The vending machine is filled with books that were both donated to and purchased by the school.
Dwyer said the school plans to keep the machine around full time, but hopes to partner with local businesses to get even more books donated.