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Florida school uses vending machine to dispense books instead of snacks

Umatilla Elementary School's vending machine started dispensing books to students as part of the state’s literacy week.

UMATILLA, Fla. — A Florida elementary school is using its vending machine to drop knowledge on its students.

The vending machine at Umatilla Elementary School started dispensing books to students on Monday as part of the state’s literacy week.

Umatilla Elementary Principal Dianne Dwyer said most of the children are more excited for the books than they would be for candy. The machine gave out more than 100 books Wednesday.

“We do need to restock the machine,” Dwyer said.

The school’s students are awarded “Bulldog Bucks” as an incentive for good behavior or getting their homework done. The students then use their 10 “bucks” in exchange for a book.

Students can choose other incentives like extra time playing outside, but Dwyer said most of them chose to get a book this week.

“The books are at no cost to the kids,” Dwyer said. “That’s the key; getting the books into the hands of the kids, so they can enjoy reading.

Dwyer said Umatilla Elementary media specialist Susan Caldwell got the idea for a vending machine with books from another school in New York.

“She [Caldwell] said, ‘can we do this?’” Dwyer said. “I said, ‘Of course we can.’”

The books are supplied from several community organizations, Dwyer said. Several of the books also come from a Scholastic book fair and other funds.

The vending machine includes a variety of books for grade levels kindergarten through fifth grade, including several popular series like “Magic Treehouse,” “I Survived” and “Junie B. Jones.”

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