GRAHAM, N.C. (WGHP) — At B. Everett Jordan Elementary School in Graham, students receive a magical gold coin designed for a special vending machine.
Instead of snacks, this one serves up food for the brain: story books.
The book vending machine was the idea of the school’s media specialist Amy McLaughlin. She saw a news story about a school in another state that installed one and thought it would be perfect to have at her school.
She talked to the school’s literacy coach Katie Wood who knew it would be a great fit. According to McLaughlin the two wrote a Donor’s Choose grant.
“It was within four months, I opened my email one day,” said McLaughlin. “It was in, I think it was February last year. I was like—shock. Like it’s funded. I was right in the middle of class, and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I was just so excited.”
The vending machine came last June, but, of course, school wasn’t in session and they started the year online because of the pandemic.
She says the vending machine has been sitting there waiting on the students ever since. But once the students returned to in person learning word got out!
“One of the children was likening it to, ‘This is better than getting a snack out of the machine. I get a book, and I get to take it home, and I get to keep it, and I got to choose it. And this is mine to keep, you know.’ There’s just nothing better than having your own book at home to keep,” said McLaughlin.
The students also have a variety of books to chose from.
“The books that we got are, they range all of the levels of the kids in our building,” she said. “And so when we do roll it out to classes, we’ve kind of got a plan. This week it might K-2, so we’ll make sure we’ve got shelves geared more towards those readers. And then we can kind of trade out some of the books that are in it, depending on the levels of our kids.”
And the best thing of all: the books are free!
Wood sees the value in getting the books that kids want into their hands.
“There’s a big difference in, you know, ‘I can check out this library book, but I have to bring it back’ versus ‘This is mine. I can write my name in it, and I can take it home and, you know, it’s mine. I get to keep it,'” she said.
She coaches students in reading every day and knows having a book of their own is very valuable.
“With the school closure, everything being digital, virtual for so long, you know, we’re excited also to get them off of the screen and back with actual books in their hands and turning the pages and tracking the print and all those early literacy skills that we know they need, that they just can’t replicate on the screen,” she said.