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Booked up: Elementary school uses vending machine to boost reading

Governor Bent Elementary School Principal Jonathan Saiz unveils the school’s book vending machine that will be used to encourage reading. (Shelby Perea/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s a vending machine for brain food.

Instead of potato chips and Pop-Tarts, Governor Bent Elementary School’s new vending machine dispenses books for students to add to their libraries.

“It’s the very first book vending machine in the whole entire state of New Mexico, which is very, very cool,” Principal Jonathan Saiz said on Friday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

But kids don’t use traditional currency. They will cash in reading logs that show they’ve read at least 20 minutes a night or 400 minutes a month for gold coins to make a purchase.

“Research shows reading 20 minutes a day develops language, brain development, strengthens family relationships, aids in understanding the world outside of their own and provides endless opportunities,” Saiz said.

Kymber McGuire, 11, said this is going to make her read more so she can get more tokens.bright spot

“Before I saw it, I was like, ‘What’s that.’ But then I said, ‘Wait. It’s a book vending machine – wow!’ ” the fifth grader said.

Students could also score special prizes from the vending machine, such as a pizza party.

Saiz said book fair and donation monies are used to fund the project, which has been in the works for months.

“It’s new, different and out-of-the-box thinking,” he said.

Staff at the school helped design the outside, which says: “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

The principal hopes having it in the cafeteria will be a good way to grab students’ attention.

Books inside were chosen based on popular picks from the book fair and will be refilled as needed.