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Book vending machine added to reading jungle at primary school

Back in March, The Crossroads Chronicle published a story that detailed an upcoming renovation of a space currently being unutilized into a “reading jungle.” Set to take place this summer, the idea was envisioned by first-year principal of Swainsboro Primary School Ron Hirst. Ahead of schedule, a complementary aspect of the to-be reading jungle, a customized book vending machine, was delivered last week and already has the school excited for what’s to come.

“The ‘reading jungle’ was a project I have envisioned for a number of years but being mostly at the secondary level, it never got any traction. As a former reading teacher, I am passionate about getting students excited about reading and after spending a little time at SPS, I felt confident the idea would blossom at SPS,” Hirst said.

He recruited six teacher and shared his idea. To his delight, this group of educators was immediately excited and bought in. Together, they began imagining what the empty area down the hallway past the front office on the right could look like and formed a plan.

The vending machine concept, however, was an idea Hirst’s wife shared with him. Unlike the jungle as a whole, this part of the project did not come together quite as easily and therefore required a little persistence.

“We wrote a grant, which was not accepted, then we tried to use Title I monies and were denied,” Hirst said. “I went to our PTO, and that group came through with donating almost all of the cost of the vending machine. The other supplies, namely the books, were purchased through the school or with federal monies.”

Overall, the project underwent planning in the first semester of this school year, and the book vending machine was ordered at the first of 2022, and the custom order finally arrived in May. Total, the reading jungle—including the new vending machine, props, decorations, and books—is a project that bottom-lines at more than $10,000. The new space should be ready for students to enjoy when the 2022-2023 school term begins.

“The group of teachers working on this project have been very creative, intentional, and student-focused to make this area comfortable and fun, a place where children can read or listen to books they enjoy. The creativeness of this team is their strength, and I am excited to see this area’s impact on our students,” Hirst continued. “The ‘Read Like A Tiger’ book vending machine is exciting because it puts student interest books in the hands of our students and, we hope, motivates them to gain a passion for reading that will serve them in a lifelong capacity. The potential impact of this initiative could change the trajectory of a child’s life, and that is what drives me to help make these experiences a reality.

Jill Scarboro leads the school’s PTO and was present for the unveiling of the vending machine. She offered her thanks to the project’s many supporters and made known a mission of the PTO as it related to this project.

“We raise a lot of money, and we have a lot of money to spend. Any time PTO is asked to help with something, we try to make sure every student has the opportunity to interact, and that will be the case with this vending machine,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who supports the PTO—like the color run, the pocketbook sales, the t-shirts and hats. We’ve been able to make other purchases for the school because of your support. You supporting us helps us support the students here, and we really appreciate the opportunity to help.”

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