There’s a new vending machine at Unsworth elementary in Chilliwack, but instead of it being filled with junk food, it’s filled with books.
The school’s brand new book vending machine arrived at the beginning of the school year and, no, it has not replaced the school librarian.
In fact, it was librarian Lorraine Warner who pitched the idea to the school PAC to purchase one. She had read about them in a blog by a U.S. teacher librarian.
“I thought ‘that is the coolest thing ever to try to get books in the hands of kids in an exciting way,’” Warner said.
It’s the first book vending machine in Chilliwack and she figures it’s quite likely also the first in B.C.
The machine is full of brand new books that the students can win by completing at-home, 15-minute reading challenges. They’re given a different book bingo sheet every month with squares to check off like “read under a table,” “read upside-down” and “read while eating a snack.”
Any student who completes the bingo sheet gets their name into a draw for that month’s prizes.
Kids can also get their name into the draw by being good citizens at the school.
“Students who are always doing the right thing or go out of their way to be kind to somebody else will also have an opportunity to earn a token,” she said.
The book vending machine only takes tokens, not money.
Each month, 20 names will be drawn. The kids “buy” books by dropping a token into the machine and pushing a few buttons, just like any other vending machine.
Grade 5 student, Zachary Greenwood, was the first kid to try it out after he earned a token on Friday. He already knew what he wanted: Dog Man – Grime and Punishment by Dav Pilkey.
Plunk – in went the token. Beep, beep – he pressed 6 then 3. Thump – one fresh book dropped down.
It was last year’s PAC that raised the $6,000 to purchase the book vending machine.
“They were excited to support it because it was a fresh, new idea. They jumped on it right away,” Warner said.
Additionally, thousands of dollars in anonymous donations came in for the school to purchase more than $2,000 worth of books.
“We were very fortunate to have very generous donors.”
Principal Shawna Petersen saw the excitement of the kids firsthand when Warner did the first draw for winners on Friday, Oct. 16. One of the names drawn was a girl in kindergarten.
“It was so sweet. All the kids were cheering for her. They didn’t win, but they were so happy that [she] won,” Petersen recalled.
Judging by the smiling faces of children as they peer through the library window to stare at the new vending machine, there’s a lot more book-loving excitement to be had throughout the school year.