Rochester school makes reading fun with book vending machine

Jan 24, 2023

ROCHESTER — At Rochester Memorial School the vending machine isn’t stocked with soda and candy, it’s full of chapter books and graphic novels. 

Each book costs one “token” to purchase, said Parent Teacher Organization President Kirstin Jimenez. Students earn tokens by keeping a log of how many minutes they spend reading over the course of the school year. 

Depending on a student’s age, they can hit different milestones of 1,500 minutes or 2,000 minutes of reading to earn a token. 

Every student at Rochester Memorial School has a “non-negotiable” 20 to 30 minutes of reading assigned as homework each night, said Principal Derek Medeiros. That time spent reading, plus any additional time accumulated counts toward a token. 

According to Medeiros, the book vending machine helps to “enrich” the students’ literacy education. 

“Literacy is so important. We know the impact the pandemic had on our kids from a global academic standpoint,” said Medeiros, referring to lower rates of post-pandemic literacy. “We're seeing, especially with all this new science of reading stuff that's come out, [that] we need to shift our practice when it comes to literacy.”

Both Medeiros and Jimenez have seen students engage with reading in new ways since the vending machine was introduced to the school this in October of last year. 

“You have your students who love literacy, they love books, and they get lost in books, which is wonderful,” said Medeiros. “But we're also getting students earning tokens that you would not typically think would be someone who this would drive them to want to read.”

According to Jimenez, some students see earning tokens as friendly competition, looking to one-up their friends. 

By mid-January, Jimenez was already looking to restock the bookshelf. “Apparently our older kids have hit the books hard over the past couple of weeks,” she said. 

Fast-selling books in the machine include “Allergic” by Megan Wagner Lloyd, “Amari and the Night Brothers” by B. B. Alston, the “Morrigan Crow” series by Jessica Townsend and the “I Survived” series of graphic novels by Lauren Tarshis.

The machine itself cost the school around $5,500, said Jimenez, who manages and stocks the machine. The school purchased a few specialty shelves that allow them to stock larger picture books for younger students. 

“It's just been something that has kicked off really well — it's awesome,” said Medeiros. “Kids really do engage in something fun when it relates to literacy. We feel this is going to just keep that going.”