It’s a vending machine, but it doesn’t dispense candy or Cheetos or even water.
“Simply put, it is a vending machine that dispenses books,” said Joel Kriner, co-Student Council Coordinator at Calistoga Elementary School.
Coming this fall, Inchy the Bookworm Book Vending Machine will stand in the school’s library, and students rewarded in the Positive Behavior Program will be given a golden token to redeem a book of their choice.
“The goal is to put a book in every student’s hands,” said Marc Morita, fifth grade teacher at the school.
Inchy costs about $5,000, and is made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Calistoga Rotary Club. Initially, the club was going to fund a portion of it, but were so impressed with a presentation given to the club by students, they agreed to fund the entire machine, Morita said.
The school still needs to raise another couple thousand dollars, however, to initially stock the machine. To keep it stocked throughout the year, another $5,000 would be ideal, Morita said.
The school is working with Copperfield’s Books, the California Education Foundation, Soroptimist International of Calistoga, and other local businesses to help fund the books. Johnny’s Sports Bar at the Mount View Hotel has also agreed to host a fundraiser.
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Currently, students earn raffle tickets when they display a positive character trait; those tickets are chosen randomly at the end of the week and the winners choose from the prize box.
“The prizes are motivating but may not have staying power. Rather than plastic rewards, the student council would like to have students earn golden tokens that they can use to choose a book from the Bookworm Vending Machine,” Kriner said.
Fifth-grader Myka Suhr is an avid reader, and winner of the 2019 Jack London Young Writer’s Contest. She said it’s a thrill when your name is called over the loudspeaker as a winner. Historically, however, prizes have included pencils, erasers, and other plastic toys that have several drawbacks, she said.
“They are not the best (environmentally) for the planet, and they tend to get lost.”
The vending machine might also be motivation for more students to improve on their behavior, “to do the right thing, be nice, and do the right thing for the school so they can win a book,” said fourth grader Axahel Reulas Sanchez.
Reading also “helps with conversational skills and is a good introduction to history and culture,” said fourth grader Vanessa Cortez.
Inchy will be stocked with books inclusive of reading levels for grades K-6, including fiction and nonfiction, Morita said.
The inventor of the machine, Jay Blumberg of Global Vending Group, said in a video he was inspired by going to schools and noticing the students had computers and iPads, but no books. The machines have been introduced on the East Coast and in Florida, and in California there is one at El Verano Elementary School in Sonoma, where it’s “incredibly successful,” Morita said.
You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or email@example.com.