Forget candy. BOOK vending machines are the sweetest

South Athens Elementary uses book vending machines to promote reading excitement. And it's working


By Toni Garrard Clay/AISD Communications Coordinator

📚 Reading well is a critical foundation to learning well in all other subjects. That’s why the book vending machine (can you believe there are book vending machines?!) at South Athens Elementary is one of our favorite things. SAE Principal Nikki Mason and Assistant Principal Jennifer Nicholson sat down with me to discuss why it works.

Highlights from the podcast:

At 0:30 — This is the first full school year for the book vending machine on campus, which is stationed just outside the cafeteria for high visibility. “If you can remember back to the days when you were a kid in school and you would pass by the snack and candy machines and always thinking, ‘I want that!’ that’s what we hear from our kids now,” said Mason. “They walk past our book vending machine, which is full of different books, and you see kids … tapping on the glass going, ‘Ooh, I want that book.’”

At 1:30 — What does it cost students to get a book from the machine? A token! How do they get a token? They demonstrate positive character traits being promoted at South Athens, which can result in tokens.

At 2:30 — The vending machine is stocked with a wide range of reading material, from picture books to chapter books, in order to meet the needs of students from pre-K4 to fifth grade.

At 3:07 — The book vending machine is primarily a result of a grant from the Athens Public Education Foundation in response to a request submitted by Reading Interventionist Jane Johnson (AKA the 2021 Athens ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year!) and District Elementary Librarian Deidre Pool.

At 4:40 — Each teacher has two book tokens per quarter to distribute to the students most demonstrating characteristics of GRIT: growth, respect, integrity and tenacity.  “We really want to expand that,” said Mason.

At 5:53 — “We really concentrate on academics a lot of the time but … we are getting to reward kids for lots of different things. … And some of the kids who maybe wouldn’t normally get recognized are getting recognized for having GRIT — that growth, that respect, integrity and tenacity,” said Nicholson.

At 7:30 — All three elementary campuses recently had Pre-K and kindergarten roundup. “Just because parents may have missed that particular night … they can still come in or call the office at any of the elementary campuses. … We know that being here at school is going to be the best thing for kids,” said Mason. AISD does not charge for pre-K3 or pre-K4. Click here to enroll online for the upcoming school year if your student has not been previously enrolled at Athens ISD and is ready for pre-K3, pre-K4, kindergarten or first grade.


Watch this short and adorable video that shows students who are SUPER HAPPY to get their book from the machine.