Southwest Elementary School Principal Lindsey Prunkard points to a book that might interest third-grader Amira Johnson as the youngster considers her choices in the school’s new book vending machine.

TILTON – Imagine a vending machine that doesn’t dispense candy or snacks but rather children’s books.

Southwest Elementary School unveiled its very own Inchy’s Bookworm vending machine last week to rave reviews from the students.

Principal Lindsey Prunkard said she saw the unique vending machine online and knew her students would love to receive a book as a reward for good behavior that would, in turn, also inspire them to read more.

“I saw it on a principals’ blog,” she said. “I thought it would be a neat way to reward students rather than giving them trinkets or food.”

Prunkard contacted Bob Richard, executive director of the Danville Public School Foundation, about whether the machine was something the foundation would fund.

The foundation’s donors provided the $5,753 needed to purchase the book machine plus cover the initial supply of books. Future books will be purchased with Title I funds through Danville District 118.

“We’re the first school in Danville to have one, and we’re thankful to the Danville Public School Foundation for funding it,” Prunkard said.

Using a golden token, children may select from 18 different book titles that might interest them. Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine can hold 10-15 books of each title, so more than one child can select and read the same book.

“The books are appropriate for all grade levels,” she said. “There are picture books and chapter books.”

Prunkard said students must first earn the golden token that’s used in the machine.

“Kindergarteners through fourth-graders sit down with their teacher and set a reading goal,” she explained. “They have to meet the reading goal that they’ve figure out with their teacher, and when they reach their goal, they will get a token for the machine.”

Not only does the book-dispensing machine support Southwest’s existing reading program, but it also instills excitement in the students about book ownership, reading and academic success.

“Three classes already have sent students to select books from the machine,” Prunkard said. “Some teachers have told me that so many more students are achieving their reading goal now because they want to select a book from the machine.

“I think they’re really excited about it and motivated by it,” she added.

Prunkard said students do not always have access to grade-appropriate literature at home, but now with the books they select from the vending machine, they can build their own home library.

“They take the book home; it’s theirs,” she said.

Third-grader Amira Johnson used her golden token to purchase a book titled “Slacker” that had a lazy beaver eating junk food on its cover.

When Prunkard asked Amira what she thought the book was about, the youngster replied, “It’s about an animal that sits around.”

Amira said she “likes reading books.”

“I had to read books and stuff in class, and I read eight books last month,” she said.

Her reading goal was increased to 10 books this month.

Third-grader Jailyn Houston chose “Toby’s Story” as her book from the vending machine.

“It seemed like a good book, and I like animals,” she said.

Third-grader Jordan Winchester said the book vending machine has tempted him to try reading more difficult books. He chose a higher level football book titled “The Big Game.”

“Some of the books are hard, but I’m going to read the whole thing,” he said.

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