It’s a two-for-one project: Boone Elementary gets to reward students for acts of kindness, and put books in its kids’ hands at the same time.
The school hosted a brief ribbon-cutting recently for its new Book Vending Machine, after which school staff and parent-teacher association members expressed excitement for the endeavor.
Books for the vending machine were donated by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a national publishing company that has a facility in Troy.
Rachel Boland, talent acquisition partner with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, said she’s been connected with PTO President Rachel Dunard for a “very long time.”
“So when she reached out, I partnered with Tom [Joyce], the director, and we started going through our resources in order to get the books donated,” Boland said. Joyce, director of distribution for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, said that the publishing company has a number of community investment initiatives throughout the country, adding that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt spends time trying to be more involved in local communities. “This is a way that we thought we could help out, our books are in just about every school in the country, and if we help out like this and do some volunteer work, donations, it just works for everybody,” Joyce said.
Books in the vending machine range from classics like “The Giver” to more contemporary pieces aimed at younger children.
“These guys, they’re fantastic books, these books as far as the trade business goes…they’re high-quality,” Joyce said.
Students will be able to “buy” books from the vending machine using special tokens called “Kindness Catchers”; each week Boone Elementary staff will give tokens to students who go above and beyond in showing kindness to their peers.
“And there’s a lot of that here,” Dunard said. New students will be chosen each week, and by the end of the year every kid will have gotten a chance to buy a book.
Around 40 percent of Boone students are on the Free and Reduced Lunch program, meaning owning a bunch of books may not be a priority for those student’s parents.
“When you’re struggling to feed your kids and keep your electric on, you don’t have money to buy books,” said Dr. Amy Porter, director of elementary education for Lincoln County R-III Schools. “So the fact that they get to take a book and keep it at home is a big deal, it may be the only book they have to keep.”