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Book vending machine offers a creative way to amplify elementary school's reading program

Adkison Elementary School staff is getting crafty in their approach to engaging young readers.

CERES, Calif. — A vending machine typically distributes sodas and snacks, why not books?  Adkison Elementary School in Ceres raised enough funds to get their very own book vending machine to "Spark the Fire" in their young readers. 

"Even if they’re not excited about reading, maybe this will be one step that will get them, 'Oh I get to get it myself. I get to take it home. It’s mine.' It’s what they wanted to read and it’s not what they’re being told to read," said Shirley Gunzenhauser, library media clerk. "Maybe it will snag them to be a lifelong reader."

Credit: Barbara Bingley
The vending machine sits in the Adkison Elementary School library.

The school rolled out its Literacy Intervention Program to promote reading skills for their young readers a year ago. Principal Stephanie Pimentel and literacy intervention teacher Lori Mariano are leading the charge at their school, focusing on bringing reading levels up early on. 

"We're just trying to develop a love of reading for our kids," Pimentel explained. "Especially for the ones who it's a little more challenging for."

The program offers creative ways to get kids to want to read, from book carts on the playground to incentives to "hot reads," a list of staff recommended books. 

The Literacy Intervention Program, or "Spark the Fire" program, is working, according to Pimentel. Last year, 90% of the first grade class was not meeting English language arts standards. Now, as second graders, 70% of the students are reading at grade level. 

The book vending machine is one more tool Atkinson Elementary School staff hope will bring more positive changes in literacy rates. 

"Gator readers equals tomorrows leaders," Pimentel said. "We’re trying to spark the fire to read, but we really couldn’t wait to bring this to our kids and our families."

The machine was funded by donations, the names of which are displayed on a plaque above the vending machine that sits in the school's library. Global Vending Group in Buffalo, New York, made and delivered the book vending machine, which is wrapped in a customized skin that reads: Gator readers = Tomorrow's leaders.

"The kids, as soon as they saw it, they were excited," Gunzenhauser said.

Students are offered a gold coin when they demonstrate "the gator way" by being kind and respectful to their teachers and peers. 

The school staff will continue fundraising for new books to keep the vending machine stocked. For information on how you can donate books, contact Principal Stephanie Pimentel: SPimentel@ceres.k12.ca.us .

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WATCH ALSO: January 2020: Teacher of the Month

Ann Janzen is a teacher at George Sargeant Elementary School in Roseville.