In recent years there has been a lot of talk about pulling vending machines out of schools. In an age where childhood obesity is a big concern, critics argue the machines are too tempting and make it too easy for kids to access high-calorie, low-quality snacks.
But at one school in Buffalo, New York, educators have come up with a way to make vending machines work for their students by stocking one with a product parents actually want kids to consume: Books!
Vice-principal at Arthur O. Eve School 61, Dr. Unseld Robinson came up with the idea to use a vending machine to get books into his kids' hands and homes, WGRZ reports.
According to The Buffalo News, Robinson heard about a similar machine at a school in Washington, D.C., and wondered if School 61 could adapt the idea for its students' needs.
"Many children in Buffalo are not reading as much as they should," Robinson told The Buffalo News. "So the thought was to have them look to the vending machine for inspiration."
The vending machine is kept in the library, but the books in the vending machine are different from library books, because kids don't have to bring them back. When they select a book from the vending machine they get to take it home and make it part of their own personal library.
The books go home with the kids, but the kids don't need to bring money from home to get a book. Each month, the school rotates through the grades, giving each child a gold coin token they can use to "buy" a book from the vending machine.
As Principal Parette Walker explained to WBFO News, the tokens are not a reward for good behavior or good attendance. Every child gets a coin and gets a book.
"We wanted to make literacy exciting and fun," Walker, told the Buffalo News, "because learning and reading should be fun."
The same factors that make candy vending machines so inappropriate in elementary schools—the alluring bright colors behind the glass, the ease of use, and all the choices—make them perfect when used to promote literacy instead of candy.