If you have a 3rd or 4th grade student at Zachary Elementary School, you’re probably familiar with their Book Vending Machine. It was unveiled with great fanfare at Christmas two years ago, and has been a smashing success ever since. For those unfamiliar, the system is beautifully simple. Every month, teachers are given a set number of vending machine tokens that they can hand out to their students as academic or behavioral rewards. Students then use those tokens to pick a book from the vending machine, one of only three in the entire state.
ZEC Principal Megan Noel reached out to The Zachary Rotary Club to ask about partnering on the vending machine project. The Rotary Club has always had a particular focus on community literacy, so filling the vending machine with fresh books was a natural fit for their organization. Every year, The Rotary Foundation allows individual chapters to apply for specific grants to aid in their community missions. This year, they were awarded a grant to help build a community of readers. With the grant, the Rotary Club was able to provide 375 diverse, high-quality books.
The books were selected based on feedback from the ZES librarians and teachers and students themselves. You’ll see some offerings from The Magic Treehouse and I Survived…series as well as some other illustrated early chapter books. The ideal vending machine book is one that is long enough to engage a student’s attention for several hours.
The Rotary Club also installed a fall balloon arch, created by literacy chair Da’Anne Lipscomb, to decorate the ZES hallways and came to the school to read fall themed books to the different classrooms. This passionate support for literacy has helped to develop a culture of reading at ZES that is unparalleled. Students plot with one another about which book they hope to earn from the vending machine and even ask to trade their Mustang Rewards for book machine tokens.
At a time when screens dominate so much of all of our lives and time, having a physical book provides a quiet, distraction free time for learning and entertainment. Thanks to the work of ZES and Zachary Rotary Club students are on the path to being lifelong readers. Having access to books at home is one of the biggest predictors of success both in school and in life. So Mustangs, get out there and earn those tokens!