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Twin Falls educators dispense love for reading

South Hills Middle School has a vending machine that dispenses books, rather than chips.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union.

At South Hills Middle School in Twin Falls, there’s a vending machine in the hallway, but it’s not your typical vending machine. Rather than dispensing chips, candy or Coke, this machine is vending a love for reading.

“It started with an idea one of my reading teachers had," said Principal Sara Praegitzer, "and she saw it in other schools, and so she and I and the librarian got together."

The vending machine arrived over the summer. 

“So, what we use it for is our rewards,” Praegitzer said. “Some of our students earn different tickets for what we call PBIS and that's positive behavioral interventions and support and then our librarian, also monthly, has the kids come down for their birthdays, and they get a token, and they get a book for their birthday.” 

That librarian is Whitney Moses.

“I want all students to have books in their home," Moses said. "We have a lovely library here with almost 11,000 books for students, but that doesn't always mean that they have easy access to books."

The students get a ticket for good behavior, the ticket is then traded in for a token to be used in the machine to get a book. 

“Our students will come in and see what new books our librarian has stocked the vending machine with, they look at different books and say, ‘oh, this is the one I want for my birthday, or this is the one I’m going to add up to with my tickets to try and get a token with it,’” Praegitzer said.

It's not just a fun reward, but also helping turn a page in each child's chapter of development. 

“One of our school goals is to increase our reading scores," Praegitzer said.  "So with that, we're kind of using this to coincide with it and help support that goal." 

“When I see students gathered outside the book vending machine pointing at the book saying, ‘I’m going to get that book,’ that is really gratifying for me as a librarian to see their enthusiasm for reading and that it's something that is motivating for them that they're excited to get that book,” said Moses.

There's a whole variety of books to choose from! 

“We're trying to get as many books into kid’s hands as we possibly can and we really want to put books in that vending machine that are super appealing to students,” Moses said. “So, you'll see the like graphic novels diary of a wimpy kid, some classics of literature, but mostly we're really looking at things that have been on the on the bestseller list.” 

The vending machine has already given out more than 200 books! Both Praegitzer and Moses also credit another teacher who was with the school previously for the inception of this, but she has since moved to California.

If you would like to nominate an innovative educator who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com. Educators, for information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation.

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