Book vending machine a hit with Ballard students, teachers, parents

Published 12:48 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2023

NILES — Ballard Elementary School takes awarding good student behavior very seriously.

Whether it’s displays of responsibility, helping a fellow student or general acts of kindness, students have the chance to win prizes such as extra recess periods, special lunch privileges or a book from their brand-new Inchy’s Bookworm Book Vending Machine.

Ballard’s book vending machine works by using a positive reward-based system to help encourage students to read more. Once the student demonstrates that positive behavior the student is rewarded with the special Inchy token which can then be used to vend their favorite book. 

“They’re so excited,” said Ballard Principal Jennifer Shabazz. “It’s all lit up. A lot of them already know what book they want before they go up to it; they’ve already looked at it and seen it… We don’t say that you have to choose based on your age because the goal is to just enjoy reading. If you’re just looking at pictures and you’re holding it, it’s still a positive.”

Each week, teachers from 28 classes keep records of all of their students who display good behavior and randomly select one to be a Viking of the Week, giving them the opportunity to choose a prize, with one of the options being a book of their choice from the vending machine. Vikings of the Week are revealed during Friday announcements at 8:30 a.m., and students select their prize directly after.

The school ordered more than 3,000 books for the vending machine, all of which have been vetted by the curriculum department as being age-appropriate for elementary schoolers.

“We try to put in a combination of books that boys would like, books that girls like, sports books, just different things,” Shabazz said.

According to Shabazz, the vending machine has been a hit with both students and parents alike.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from parents,” she said. “Kids coming home with a book and (the parents) wanting to see the book vending machine. We post all of the selections on Facebook every week so that the community can see what they chose and how it’s being used and pushing out incentives for literacy and positive behavior.”

Students are not the only ones who enjoy the vending machine. Teachers and staff enjoy seeing students’ faces light up when they read their books.

“It’s exciting because one of our key focuses is literacy across the district,” Shabazz said. “Here at Ballard, it’s helping our kids have that love of reading because if you have a love of reading and you want to read, you’re obviously more interested in reading and so having this bright, beautiful vending machine with the colors and the talking, the kids are excited, which makes the teachers excite, which makes parents excited and so it’s a community-Ballard we’re seeing.”

Hear from some of the Vikings of the Week about their book of choice and why they enjoy reading:

Peyton Ness is a fifth grader at Ballard Elementary. She chose the book “Lena and the Burning of Greenwood” by Nikki Shannon Smith.

Why did you choose that book?

Peyton: I like the front cover and I can see in the background that there’s like a fire and so it looked pretty entertaining. It’s a chapter book and I like chapter books because they’re more entertaining to me. I don’t have to go on from one book to another book.

What do you enjoy about reading?

Peyton: It’s kind of like a journey through a book and how a journey like just changes my point of view. It’s very entertaining. When I look through the book, it just encourages me to be like the people in it.

Makayla Anderson is a fifth grader at Ballard Elementary. She chose the book “Can You Catch the Kraken?: An Interactive Monster Hunt” by Brandon Terrell.

Why did you choose that book?

Makayla: It just looks scary and has a scary vibe and I like scary things.

What do you enjoy about reading?

Makayla: I like it because what’s inside it takes you through a journey. When you’re in a chapter book, there’s not really a whole bunch of pictures. You have to use your imagination. So it’s not about what the characters in the book look like and stuff because you can imagine that in your head.

Lauren Carber is a fourth grader at Ballard Elementary. Lauren chose the book “Can You Become a Pro Gamer?: An Interactive Adventure” by Eric Braun.

Why did you choose that book?

Lauren: There was a book on the vending machine before that was called ‘Video Games Victors’ but my friend Maya got that one. So then I saw Can You Become a Pro Gamer? and I thought ‘I’m gonna get that one if I’m Viking of the Week’ because I really like video games. I have my own Nintendo Switch with a lot of video games on it.

What do you enjoy about reading?

Lauren: “I really like chapter books because a lot of chapter books don’t really have pictures of color in them and if they do have pictures, they’re all black and white so you can imagine in your head what it can be. One time when I was reading a Judy Moody book, I always used to think Judy Moody had brown hair. But then, when I was at the library, I chose a Judy Moody brag tag and it turns out Judy Moody has red hair. That’s what I like about it.

Sawyer Robson is a first grader at Ballard Elementary. She chose the book “Snowboarding Surprise” by Katie Wood.

Why did you choose that book?

Sawyer: Because I like snow and summer. My birthday is in the summer and my brothers and  my dad’s are in the winter.

What do you enjoy about reading?

Sawyer: I have lots of books and I read every night. I like reading chapter books because they’re long and they’re good and they have a lot of words that challenge you. It’s meant to be a little bit harder but it’s easier once you learn.

Dawson Pearman is a kindergartener at Ballard Elementary. He chose the book “The Amazing Adventures of the DC Super-Pets” by Steve Korté.

Why did you choose that book?

Dawson: Because I didn’t have this book before.

What do you enjoy about reading?

Dawson: My mom reads me books. I’ve got a lot of books at my house.