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New Vending Machine at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy Dispenses Books Instead of Candy

four students - two on each side - stand next to the brand new book vending machine at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy
The students are very excited about the new book vending machine. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

ALEXANDRIA, VA–The Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy has a new vending machine in its hall, but this one doesn’t dispense candy or soft drinks or bags of chips. It dispenses books!

This January, Lyles-Crouch Principal Patricia Zissios was in a board meeting for the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals. One of the principals from a school in southwest Virginia was talking about the latest addition to their small school.

a purple vending machine that dispenses books
The vending machine was acquired from globalvendinggroup.com. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

“This school was in a very rural area, and many of the children didn’t have books at home,” detailed Zissios. “They really needed it. He was talking about the all the excitement the vending machine generated, for literacy and learning.”

After this display, Principal Zissios was on a mission to secure a machine for her own students. She reached out to some of her employees and PTA members and began researching. By April, they had secured their own machine from Global Vending Group, specially designed to reflect the Lyles-Crouch spirit.

an acronym ROARS - that stands for Respect, Ownership, Attitude, Responsibility, Safety
The ROARS acronym helps remind students to be on their best behavior to earn their books. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Adorned with images of lions and the acronym ROARS – Respect, Ownership, Attitude, Responsibility, Safety—the vending machines not only inspires a zest for reading, but it advocates for the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS).

Principal Zissios explains, “Children who ROAR and show those behaviors get stamped on their classroom behavior char. Then if they fill the chart, their name goes into a lottery to be pulled for the vending machine.”

students wait in line at a book vending machine
The students wait patiently for their turn to choose a book. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Each month, students in each classroom receive a behavior chart, and if they exemplify the ROARS behaviors, their teachers can sign off sections of their chart. When the chart is completely signed off, their name is submitted into a classroom lottery.

a young boy reaches his hands inside the slot of a vending machine
The books drop down and you reach in to grab your hard earned literature. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

At the end of each month, one student per classroom is drawn—twenty-one students in total. Three more students are also individually selected by the principal, assistant principal, and counselor—for a total of 24 students who get to select a book from the vending machine each month.

a young school girl stands in front of a vending machine with her fingers on the buttons
The vending machine works like a regular vending machine; push the buttons that correspond to your desired selection, insert a coin, down drops your book. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Those students then make their way down the halls to the vending machine, where they are given a golden bookworm coin to slide into the machine to pay for their desired reading selection.

One student stated this machine inspires her because, “I want to bring my book home so I can learn how to read.  My parents said if I learn how to read, I could then use a chapter book.”

three school children stand in front of a book vending machine each with a book in their hands
The Lyles-Crouch students are very excited about earning their books each month. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

The books are of various reading levels, genres, lengths and sizes, and are chosen based on student and PTA suggestions, library inventory, and popularity. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Minecraft, and Cat Kid Comic Club all seem to be the favorites right now. Books are restocked as needed, and the PTA aims to secure annual funding for inventory.

Librarian Stacy Hoeflich stated, “The students are specifically asking me how they can get the particular books from the machine. So I explain to them the process, and then they are aware of what they need to do. One 4thgrade teacher in particular only had one student with a complete ticket chart last month; this month, she already has 3 or 4. The students are wanting to get theirs names in that hat.”

Four school children crow in front of a book vending machine to see their choices
There are so many books to choose from!

Principal Zissios aims that at the end of next school year, each student will go home with a book.

“However it equates to 400 children having a book by the end of the year,” says Principal Zissions. “It is an incentive, it is a visual, it is supporting literacy. For kids, when they see their classmate have it then it helps them to say ‘You know what, maybe I could do that too.’ It makes it real, and those behaviors have gotten a lot better. The kids are all excited and I just think it is amazing.”

The vending machine stands right next to the library in the main entrance of the school, so students pass it every day. This school year ends on June 10, but hopefully this machine instills a love for reading that lasts forever.

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