Reading book vending machine unveiled at village primary school

(From left) Hadia (9), Matt Knight, head of sustainability and ecology, Jacob (8), Maisie (11), Zak (7) and Cliff McNish, children's author. Picture: Jess Warren

CHILDREN at a village primary school can enjoy their new vending machine — but it won’t be dishing out sweets and chocolate.

Earlier today, Shinfield St Mary’s CE Junior School unveiled their book vending machine.

The machine was recycled from its sugary past, and has been customised to hold 40 books at any one time.

The project is being led by Matt Knight, the school’s head of sustainability and ecology. 

He said: “Every three weeks, we’ll pick a child from each year group who has put exceptional effort into their reading.

“They’ll be given a token, compatible with the machine’s coin slot, and they can choose any book they like.

“They get to keep the book as a reward for all their hard work.

Maisie (11) is in year 6 at Shinfield St Mary’s CE Junior School. She chose Breathe, by Cliff McNish from the vending machine. Picture: Jess Warren

“We’re hoping the scheme will help get some of our more reluctant readers involved, and enjoy the books they recieve.”

Books in the machine are carefully selected by Mr Knight to cover a range of age groups and reading ages.

The books have been paid for by a donation from Davis Tate, an estate agency who have a branch in School Green.  

Ben Hicks, local director at Davis Tate, said: “We feel we have a responsibility to give back, and be active within the community.

“This is part of a long-term collaboration with the school. Hopefully the kids will get a lot of joy out of it too.”

The vending machine can hold 40 books at any one time. Picture: Jess Warren

Three of the books currently in the machine have been written by children’s author Cliff McNish.

He was at the school to mark the project launch, and run a writing workshop for children in year 6.

He said: “This is great, because it’s in the middle of a corridor, the children have an opportunity to browse the books constantly.

“And there’s such a rich choice of books on offer too — obviously there’s a few books I’ve written in there, but there’s also books by David Walliams, he’s always going to be popular.

“Anything that encourages all children, especially boys to read has got to be encouraged.”

First to pick their books from the machine were students Zak (7), Jacob (8), Hadia (9) and Masie (11). 

Maisie, who is currently in year 6, chose Breathe, a ghost story by Mr McNish.

“I love haunted stuff,” she said. “I’m not scared at all, I like ghost stories. We’re studying them in class too.”

Mr McNish, who specialises in fantasy and supernatural writing, is delivering workshops to children about how to write the best ghost story.

“The main question the children have to think about in their writing is why the ghost hasn’t moved on, and is stuck in the real world,” he said. 

The workshops have been organised as part of the school’s wider focus on reading and writing.

In September, the first book vending machine in the UK was unveiled at Westoe Crown Primary School, in South Shields.

Head of literacy at the school, Christine Elrick was inspired by a similar product she saw in the United States.

She told The Wokingham Paper: “Our machine, The Imagination Station, has been absolutely brilliant since we started using it in September.

“Each week, a child from Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 who has really tried hard with their reading is selected to enjoy a new book. 

“From start to finish, it took us over a year to get up and running, and we sourced the broken machine with the help of a local company.

“They helped us transform it into one that could dispense books.”

Ms Elrick was excited to hear that similar projects are popping up across the country, calling the Shinfield initiative “fantastic”.

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