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New vending machine at Birchwood ABC Elementary distributes books to students

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:49 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - These days vending machines sell all kinds of things, but a vending machine at Birchwood ABC Elementary school in Chugiak doesn’t sell anything. Instead, the machine dispenses free books.

Parent-Teacher Association President Heather Calcaterra said she was intrigued by a book vending machine she saw online and knew she wanted one for the school.

“I thought, what a great thing to promote literacy for the students, and maybe an excitement to want to get a book that they can keep and take home.”

Vend Alaska agreed to sell the PTA an older machine at a lower price, then modified it so it would fit books and accept tokens. Calcaterra said it was important that no child would have to pay for a book and that every child had an opportunity to get one.

“We really wanted every student to be able to use a token and go down to the book machine sometime during the school year,” she said. “So PTA decided to grant a token to a student on their birthday.”

So far, Calcaterra said, about a dozen students have chosen books on their birthdays or “half-birthday” if their regular birthday is in the summer. In a few weeks, she said, the tokens will also be distributed to teachers who can give them to students they choose.

“Every teacher will receive a token to distribute to a student in their classroom every month, however they wish,” she said. “Whether it’s behavior, earned academic, earned kindness, however they choose to hand those tokens out.”

The PTA is stocking the machine with books earned through credits with Scholastic Book Fairs, as well as sale books from the fair. But Calcaterra said they would also welcome donated books from the community. Books should be age appropriate, can be soft or hardback and should also be new.

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