New machine adds excitement for reading at Andalusia Elementary

Published 11:00 am Saturday, January 13, 2024

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For weeks, a large box decorated with big questions marks greeted students at Andalusia Elementary School and on Thursday the contents inside was revealed.

In the weeks leading up to the reveal, students offered their own guesses as to what could be inside the box. Those guesses ranged from a claw-style prize game to a robot that would do students’ homework. The actual surprise was a vending machine offering students free books in exchange for tokens they can earn for doing good work or showing leadership in their classroom.

Funding for the machine was provided by the Andalusia City Schools Foundation.

AES Librarian Angie Bowden led the unveiling and ribbon cutting event. Also attending the event were students selected based on their reading success. Those students either earned the most AR (accelerated reading) points in their class or they have the highest average on AR quizzes.

Two older elementary students also attended to help demonstrate to younger students how the machine works. Emma Sightler, a fifth grader, was selected based on earning over 500 AR points as a fourth grade. Jun Kim, a sixth grader, was also selected for having earned 500 AR points during his fourth and fifth grade years.

“We received this box and the item behind it in December, but we thought it would be fun to let our students’ curiosity build up. Since then, children have guessed that it might be a ‘giant Playstation video game,’ another thought it might be a robot, and several thought it was a claw machine and others thought it was a machine to do homework,”  Bowden said.

After the big reveal, Superintendent Dr. Daniel Shakespeare and AES Principal Victoria Anderson cut a ribbon officially opening the machine for students to use.

The books inside the machine are for those students at Pre-K through third grade reading levels. Students will earn gold tokens to be used with the machine from their teachers based on displaying positive leadership, kindness to others, creativity, and other positive actions, including academic successes.

Bowden told the students, “When you pull that book out it is yours to keep. That makes it different from getting a book at the library that has to be returned. Your job today is to tell the other boys and girls in your classrooms what you saw behind this big box today and how they will get to use it,” Bowden said.

She added that awarding tokens will be done to celebrate both large and small student successes and that the goal is for all students to get to select a book before the end of the school year.

“Studies have shown that students who are independent readers become better readers, score higher on achievement tests, gain more content knowledge. We want our students at AES to be successful, independent reader,” Bowden said.

The event concluded with Sightler reading a poem about books and reading.

Bowden said the machine will be refilled regularly with books purchased through funds from the ACS Foundation.

With it’s colorful display and interactive qualities, Bowden said she hopes it will provide additional excitement for students.

“Everyday when the students come in they will walk right by it and I’m hoping it will provide inspiration for them to read even more,” she said.