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Satchel Ford Elementary installs book vending machine to make reading fun

Students can earn a token through good behavior or grades. They can use that token to get a book from the vending machine to take home for free.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Richland County elementary school is gearing up for back-to-school. For Satchel Ford Elementary, this means installing a new book vending machine to encourage reading. 

Librarian Julia Choate came up with the idea to purchase the machine after seeing it online. When she brought it to the school, Principal Matthew Scandrol was in full support.

"This is awesome," he said about his thoughts when Choate presented the idea. "We’ve got to jump on this. This would be a great thing."

So they made it happen.

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Choate says the money came from Boosterthon donations. 

"We want to focus on things that our kids and our parents see," she said. We want them to see where their money is going."

Although students go back to school on Tuesday, Scandrol says some children have gotten a sneak peek at the machine during registration. 

"It’s already having impact," he said.

He hopes that as more students come into the building, that impact will spread. The goal is to encourage children to read.

"Getting books into our students hands matters because whether they’re looking at the pictures, looking at the print, just seeing it is going to help our students become better readers," Choate said. "And while I want them to come to the library and check out books all the time - and they do - I also want them to have them at their home and build their classroom library."

Quincie Moore, Director of Early Learning and Literacy at the State Department of Education says encouraging reading early is helpful. 

"We just find a lot in South Carolina that our children…it’s not that they cannot learn," she said. "They just haven’t had the opportunity to have books and things in the home."

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This project played into one of the school's main missions, Scandrol explained.

"Reading is a huge, huge foundation here at Satchel Ford," he said. "We put a lot of time into it. Our language arts blocks are the majority of the day."

Now, students have more opportunities to read. They can earn tokens through doing well academically, or for good behavior.

Moore says having these additional chances to read is crucial.

"You want children to know how print and language works at a young age," she said. "So reading to a child, talking to a child, discussing what you’re talking about, discussing what the book is about. Those are real small skills that parents can do at home to get them ready."

Scandrol says in addition to encouraging reading, this machine can also help students transition back to class.

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This is the first time in two years that parents will actually be able to walk in and see the kids’ rooms," he remarked. "So it’s a great way to break the ice with both the parents and the students."

The machine will be filled with new and gently used books.

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