According to Literacy New York Buffalo Niagara, around 30 percent of adults from Buffalo, New York qualify as “functionally illiterate,” which is 10 percent higher than the national average. Therefore, one elementary school in the city decided to address the issue by encouraging children to read. Sharon Belton-Cottman, a Buffalo School Board member, said that “One of the biggest issues we have in this district is literacy rate. If our children can read, they can survive.”

Late November, Arthur O. Eve School 61 had installed their first vending machine for books

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Assistant Principal Dr. Unseld Robinson came to the Arthur O. Eve School three years ago from Long Island. He saw the idea of book vending machines in another school and was eager to introduce the concept to School 61. “Many children in Buffalo are not reading as much as they should,” Robinson remarked, “so the thought was to have them look to the children’s’ books vending machine for inspiration.” Critics say that the school could just encourage kids to go to the library, but the vending machine, according to Robinson, adds to the novelty and builds excitement.

The machine dispenses books for free when a special coin is inserted into the slot

Image credits: WBFO

The school held a ribbon-cutting to show off the novelty. Students were given special coins to insert into the slot and pick out a free book of their choice. A video captured by WBFO news shows one girl putting a coin into the machine, pressing A6, and then pulling out a copy of “The Best School Year Ever.” She proudly showed off her new book while photographers were snapping pictures.

The children are encouraged to take books which they then get to keep for themselves

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Assistant Principal Dr. Unseld Robinson contacted Global Vending Group in Amherst to see if the company could customize one of its vending machines for books. He also collaborated with Scholastic to find the right books for kids with appropriate sizes and titles. Neither of the companies had done anything like this before. The Community Action Organization purchased the vending machine for $2,000, another $1,000 was spent on books, which will be continuously restocked thanks to the Teacher’s Desk, a non-profit school supply store. The project took about a year and a half to plan and came to fruition this November.

“We wanted to make literacy exciting and fun,” said Principal Parette Walker, “because learning and reading should be fun”

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“We’re not basing it on behavior,” she added. “We’re not basing it on attendance so that everyone will have a chance to receive a book. There will be a monthly rotation of all students.” Buffalo School Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman hopes that this vending machine will encourage parents to “focus on reading.”

Twitter soon exploded with comments about the great idea and even authors chimed in, offering their books

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