Students at C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School are encouraged to visit the vending machine in the office. It doesn’t take change; there’s no card reader. For that matter, it isn’t stocked with chips or sweets. Instead, the machine’s contents are meant to nourish a child’s mind, not serve up empty calories.

The vending machine housed in the main office is stocked with books for students in prekindergarten through fifth grade at various reading levels — “We like to provide a choice,” Ronnita Cannon, the school’s parent liaison, said. Earning points for displaying character traits and good behavior that are tracked by teachers using a schoolwide Class Dojo system, students receive one token for the machine for every 30 points gathered.

“It’s kind of motivating for students to earn a book and select one that interests them,” Principal Brian King, Ed.D., said. Students can also use their Dojo points to “purchase” items from the school store.

The school bought the vending machine — which can hold between 200 to 300 titles — with proceeds of last year’s Boosterthon, and it was delivered earlier this month, Cannon said.

The school purchases the books for the machine, and students get to keep the books they have earned. On a recent morning, Cannon was adding more books thanks to a rush of students who recently turned their Dojo points into I Love Books tokens.

As she finished, three first-grade students arrived in the office to select a book. As each student plunked in a coin, the machine whirled to life, lighting up with a recorded voice calling out, “One book, coming right up,” as the book is released from the spiral holders.  

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