Book vending machine encourages Regina students to attend, improve marks and be kind

Pop and chips are mainstays in most vending machines, but Kitchener Community School in Regina had a more novel idea.

The school has a vending machine full of books.

A student can earn tokens for the machine through positive achievements in their life and education.

Chantelle Nelson, Kitchener’s vice principal and teacher librarian, said the program promotes access to books, encourages grade-level reading and shows that literacy matters.

Chantelle Nelson, vice principal and teacher librarian at Kitchener Community School in Regina, said students get really excited when they get to pick their own book to take home. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

Kids can earn a token through improved attendance or when a teacher notices a student overcoming barriers at home to come to class.

They can also be rewarded for academic achievement or improved reading skills.

Students can also earn a token through school leadership or by following the “Kitchener Kode,” which covers respect, kindness, good citizenship, helpfulness and positivity.

“It definitely encourages a citizenship attitude of taking ownership over their own actions and their learning so that they’re motivated to try and get that token and they can see reward at the end of it,” Nelson said.

Following the ‘Kitchener Kode’ is one way students can earn golden tokens. When CBC visited the school, one class was shovelling sidewalks and driveways in the community after a snow storm. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

Grade 7 student April Wilson earned a token by helping a younger student with a math assignment.

“I picked one of The Babysitters Club books,” said Wilson of her choice from the machine. “If you want a book from the vending machine you have to have good attendance, be kind in school, follow the ‘Kitchener Kode.’

“It’s not hard to do, you just have to try.”

April Wilson, a Grade 7 student at Kitchener Community School, earned a token by helping a younger student with a math assignment. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

Nelson said about 20 students have received golden tokens so far this year. Students of any age are eligible. The books span a variety of reading levels and subjects of interest.

Conexus Credit Union helped to supply the vending machine and The United Way uses donations to help fill it with books.

“United Way is proud, and honoured, to support the educational journeys and aspirations of the young learners in our city,” said Emily Armer, donor communications manager for United Way Regina, in an email to CBC.

Armer said United Way placed book vending machines in four schools last year, including Kitchener, Albert Community School, Seven Stones School and St. Augustine School, as part of year one of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. The organization will be placing book vending machines in four more schools, including Connaught School, Imperial School, Coronation Park School and Sacred Heart School, as part of year two.

For the younger students, Nelson said Peppa Pig seems to be the most popular choice, while older students are flocking to the graphic novels on the top row.

Nelson said the students are always excited to choose a book.

“Many students have limited access to resources at home so this is another way to get more books into their hands to take home with them and it’s a way to add some literacy and opportunities to read with their family members,” she said.

Nelson said book vending machines would be beneficial at schools around the city, especially in places where access to at-home reading resources can be limited.

The Babysitters Club is still a popular book series and a favourite among those choosing from the book vending machine. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

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