Reading rewards: New vending machine serves up literacy at Callahan Elementary

From left, Christopher Peck, Noah Hardy, Charlotte McNamara and Brigette McNamara show off their new books.

BURRILLVILLE – Teachers at William L. Callahan Elementary School will have a new reward to hand out for good behavior when they return to school next fall, thanks to an effort by the PTF to increase student literacy.

The Callahan PTF purchased a book vending machine for the lobby of the school, recognizing the first students with tokens to use the new educational novelty this month.

Second-grader Brigette McNamara, fourth-graders Charlotte McNamara and Noah Hardy, and fifth-grader Christopher Peck were among the first to use the new Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine.

“What this machine is for is to encourage an environment where reading is fun and seen as a reward for kids who exhibit being kind, respectful and ready to learn,” said PTF member Andrea McNamara. “The machine was put in the lobby of the school so everyone who enters the school from the front office can see it as a constant reminder of prizes and goals.”

The idea for a book vending machine was developed in 2018 by an educator in Buffalo, NY as a way to address a literacy challenge in the school district. The machines have since been produced and shipped to schools, hospitals and churches across the country with the goal of using a positive reward-based system to help encourage kids to read more.

“We believe that this combination of vending books and reward system could bridge the gap between literacy and engagement,” notes the company website. “The engagement rate has been remarkable as more and more students are racing to the vending machine to get their favorite books. As more books are being distributed new books are taking their place, creating endless opportunities for children to learn and get engaged.”

Callahan’s version was purchased from Global Vending Group as a unique way to enhance a culture where reading is perceived as an exciting prize. The machines cost around $6,000, with books to be updated with funds from the PTF as needed.

It was a hit with the first group of students recognized at a ribbon cutting ceremony in early June.

“The kids are all super excited to receive this, as we are only the third school in the state of Rhode Island to have an incentive system like this,” McNamara said.  

Book titles were chosen with the help of the school librarian and research on some of the more popular book choices for elementary school kids.  

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