UP Elementary Students Satisfy Their Book Cravings with New Vending Machine

There’s a new vending machine at University Park Elementary School, and it’s packed with enough stories to satisfy any student’s sweet tooth.

Book choices include kid hits The Duckling Gets a Cookie and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as well as page-turners about Barbie and the escapades of Dog Man, a part-canine, part-police officer superhero.

Students will have the opportunity to earn books for either good behavior or strong reading habits, said librarian Mary Valuck. The school will draw names from the pool of students who earn awards for good citizenship, and from the classes that log the most reading minutes at each grade level. Winners will receive a gold token decorated on one side with the image of a “bookworm,” and on the other a book, and will be able to insert the token into the machine to receive a prize.

The vending machine arrived at its home outside the second-floor University Park Elementary School library in January with some help from the school’s “real life superhero,” facilities manager Jesus Gonzalez. PTA Volunteers stocked the machine with books, and Valuck said it’s already been a hit with students and families.

“This week, more than any other in the library, it’s been high traffic,” she said. “The kids see the lights, these books, they’re so excited. They’re coming in asking me how do I get a token? What can I do? And I really have noticed them reading, reading, reading.”

University Park is the only elementary school in HPISD that has a book vending machine, Valuck said. She said she was inspired by librarian Jill Bellomy’s vending machine at the Raider library.

The vending machine and the books in it were given to the school by the University Park Elementary PTA. PTA president Whitney Zapffe said the PTA plans to give $850,000 back to UP elementary this school year.

“I think it just makes reading fun,” she said. The aim is to “at this young age, get them hooked so they continue their literacy all the way through.”

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