BUFFALO, N.Y. — The new vending machine at Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence in Buffalo has the whole school buzzing.
"We're sitting here in front of our new book vending machine, which our students are super excited about," Principal Natasha Hendricks said.
It's stocked with books for all ages, and it doesn't accept cash.
"As you can see there's finger marks in there already," Hendricks said. "They're touching in there, they're looking in there and just looking forward to earning a token for it."
Hendricks says students will earn the tokens by practicing their school's six character traits, including citizenship, responsibility, and fairness.
"The student who displays that the most at the end of the month are the ones who get nominated to earn a token for a book."
The program is about finding a new way to make reading fun and accessible.
"Of course we want students to love reading," she said. "Gone are the days when students just kind of go to the library sit in the library and read books. So we want to give them books to take home with them that will be their very own."
Lydia T. Wright is the latest Buffalo School to get a book vending machine, but the Arthur O. Eve School of Distinction was the first.
Back in 2018, they contacted CEO Jay Blumberg of Global Vending Group about creating a custom machine.
"He was looking for a vending machine for books," Blumberg said of former Assistant Principal Dr. Unseld Robinson. "He didn't know how to do it. He didn't want to use money, but he wanted to reward these kids for good behavior, and I said, 'What do you think about a token? Would that work,' and he said, 'yeah I think that would be a great idea.'"
That machine is still up and running today. Students earn gold coins by participating in current principal Nathaniel Barnes' monthly reading challenge. Mr. Barnes calls it his "baby."
"I am very, very, very protective over that book machine," he said. "I ensure that it's updated monthly because I have students who will see me walking through the hallway and say Mr. Barnes can you take me into the library so I can look in the book vending machine just so I can determine which book I want at the end of this month? That's what it's all about. It's all about building an intrinsic love for reading."
"Currently we have about 4,000 machines from Buffalo, New York all the way to Alaska."
As the book vending machine trend grows, Global Vending is working to keep up with the demand.
"I didn't think it would be this big," Blumberg said. "I thought every school in Buffalo would want one, but the outreach across the country was just, it was just right. Almost from the beginning, you could see that this was something special."
It's only been up at her school for a couple of weeks, but Principal Hendricks can already see the impact on her students.
"We like to be on the forefront of a lot of things," she said "We often go, you can try us out, because as long as it's for the advancement of our students, and it's for them growing and for helping anything, I'm open to almost anything. To, you know, expose them to it, because exposure is key. They don't know what they don't know. So we expose them to it, then they get to see what the world is like out there."