AP NEWS

Books — not candy — in this school vending machine

May 5, 2019

You won’t find snacks like Snickers bars or potato chips behind the glass of the newly-installed vending machine at Bryant Elementary School. Instead, students can choose “The World According to Humphrey” or “The Great Louweezie” because this machine promotes literary, not tooth decay.

The new vending machine was open for business in a ribbon cutting ceremony held in the school’s library at 29801 Kingsland Blvd. in Brookshire. School principal William Rhodes had heard about a small company in New York that constructs vending machines designed specifically for books.

“I went straight to our librarian, Nidia Casillas, and said, ’We have to have this. It is an amazing idea,” Rhodes said after the ceremony.

The vending machine cost about $4,500. Half was raised by the students while the campus PTA picked up the tab for the rest,.along with about 120 books held in the rack.

Student representatives from each of the grades inside the Katy Independent School District campus were selected to be give the book machine a try. Kensleigh Leonard, a fidgeting 6-year-old in kindergarten, was the first to shove one of the special coins into the slot.

“I was first because I’m the youngest,” Kensleigh said. “I just like being first.”

She selected “Lots of Knock Knock Jokes for Kids” then returned to her seat.

“I love jokes,” Kensleigh added.

The vending machine will only accept special coins that say, “I love books.” Bryant Elementary students can earn them for good behavior and academic improvement. But school officials are still figuring out the best way to make it work for them.

“This just builds more excitement about reading - anything we can do to encourage reading,” Rhodes said. “It’s the number one predictor of student success in their life.”

Casillas selects each of the books to be offered in the vending machine. The idea is to whet their appetite for literature by offering titles popular with elementary school age children.

“You’ll see a smattering of different kinds of books. It’s all about what their interests are,” Casillas said.

Michael Echiwario, Jr., a 9-year-old third grader, picked “Smile” by Raina Telegemeier. It’s the story of a young girl, also named Raina, who falls and damages her teeth and the long braces-and-retainer related journey she goes on.

“I like graphic novels,” he said quite matter-of-factly. “And I like this book (vending machine) idea.”

Both the librarian and the principal at Bryant Elementary admitted the vending machine is a bit of a gimmick but said the important thing is to develop a love of reading for the students.

“The library is the central focus of the school and students are always seeing the great things happening,” Rhodes said. “The book vending machine just makes our library even more special and helps attract kids to love reading even more.”

mike.glenn@chron.com