Book vending machine unveiled at Ocala school

Students earn tokens to retrieve free book from Book ATM

OCALA, Fla. – All it takes is three tokens, and the book is all yours.

“We were looking for something different to get kids motivated to read, not only at school but at home,” Greenway Elementary principal Dr. Jamie North said.

Greenway Elementary is the first school in North Central Florida to get a Book ATM.

“I was surprised, I’ve never seen anything in here like that,”fourth-grader Jayden Padro said.

“When I first saw it, I was like ‘wow, that’s so cool,’” fifth-grader Suinaya Torres said.

The book vending machine sits in the cafeteria. Hundreds of kids pass the machine daily.

“When you see a vending machine, you’re automatically thinking ‘there’s something in there that I want.’ We’re showing them a book machine and telling them ‘there’s something in this that you definitely want,’” Librarian and Media Specialist Greg Wilson said.

Wilson said the school came up with the idea to get the machine last year from a New York-based company. Altogether the machine costs about $4,000. It was paid for with money raised through book fairs. Another $500 was donated by the Ocala chapter of National Daughters of the American Revolution to keep it stocked with books.

“There are some books that you want to buy that you can’t get because your parents won’t get you, but you can earn those books by getting three tokens,” fifth-grader Derris King said.

Students can earn tokens through educational achievements, good behavior, and by reading other books.

“You go through the logistics of ‘how are we going to fill this and keep it relevant and updated so these kids want these books,’” Dr. North said.

The Book ATM has books available for all ages some very popular titles like Harry Potter, the Magic Tree House book series, and celebrity biographies.

“We have a lot of students here who love to read, but for the handful who are reluctant to, I’m hoping they see this is a new incentive to reach for, something different,” Wilson said.

Each book is brand new and the students will be able to keep them. There are no plans yet for other schools in Marion County to get a Book ATM, but administrators at Greenway Elementary hope this will inspire other schools to come up with unique ways to promote reading.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.