Laurens Co. School District 55 installs book vending machines at elementary schools

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LAURENS, S.C. (WSPA) — Laurens Elementary School Principal Randy Dendy loves to see his students get excited about learning. District 55’s new $4,000 book-dispensing vending machines — now installed and operational in all district elementary schools — hit the mark; before the machines were even stocked, students were already stoked.

“I think just the look of it, the décor, the outside of it sparked their interest, like we’re getting a book vending machine,” Dendy said. “So they were very excited. Anytime they’re excited, I’m excited for them as well.”

Students are able to purchase and keep books from the machine with golden tokens. They earn golden tokens through good behavior and hard work in the classroom.

“They are just like with Willy Wonka,” Dendy said. “They’re so excited, like, ‘I got a token!’ So then they get to go visit the book vending machine.”

Educators say reading is a fundamental skill vital to all other subjects: Math, science and social studies all require a solid foundation of the ABCs. However, like many districts across the country, LCSD 55 has seen a decline in literacy rates among its students. Teachers say that the pandemic is to blame for the growing problem.

District leaders did not order the vending machines with this problem in mind; however, they do hope it can help bolster reading comprehension among younger students.

“We began looking at data and research and thought that [the vending machines] would be an excellent tool to help increase literacy in our district,” Superintendent Dr. Ameca Thomas said.

Thomas said the district is open to consider expanding the book vending machine program beyond its elementary schools.

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