These Very Cool Vending Machines Give Out Free Books For Children

child-readingA love of books is a wonderful thing that can help a person academically and in many aspects of his or her life, but some kids do not have adequate access to books. Earlier this summer one little boy made headlines when he was spotted reading junk mail because his family could not afford books and he did not have access to a library, but now some children in Washington, D.C., will be able to get free books from vending machines as part of a new literacy program that is being tested there.

According to The Washington Post, three big, blue vending machines have been installed in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, where more than 75 percent of middle school children are reportedly reading below their grade levels. The vending machines allow children under 14 to select books and “purchase” them for free. You just push a button and get a book. There are 12 titles at different reading levels to choose from, and the selection is expected to rotate every two weeks, with 42 different titles available in all.

The vending machines were installed in a grocery store, Salvation Army, and a local church as part of a “Soar with Reading” literacy program funded by Jet Blue Airlines, and they are slated to distribute about 100,000 books. The program began this summer because the summer vacation is the time kids from low-income areas are most likely to stop reading, which can lead them to fall behind in class and can have long-term effects on academic performance. Access to age-appropriate books is a big part of that problem. According to a study commissioned by JetBlue, there is only one age-appropriate book for every 830 children in Anacostia.

There is a public library in Anacostia, but librarians say access to books in the home is important as well.

”The home library and the public library really work to complement each other,” said George Williams, a spokesman for D.C. public libraries. ”The library gives you the opportunity of discovery through browsing the different topics, but owning a book means you can read it over and over again, building a love of reading.”

One grandmother told The Washington Post that the vending machine let her granddaughter have new books that belonged just to her.

”They get to write their names in them, keep them and start a collection,” she said.

The vending machines are for any kids under age 14, and the kids can visit whenever they like. The machines track how many kids are using them, but not how often each kid does. A kid can take as many books as he or she wants, and parents can receive text alerts whenever the vending machines’ selections are updated.

”We wanted to do something that made kids want to read and want books,” said Icema Gibbs, director of corporate social responsibility for JetBlue. ”This way, they come to the machine, they choose what they like, instead of us deciding what they get and when they can get it.”

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Getty Images/FangXiaNuo)

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