Schenectady

Schenectady elementary school unveils bookworm vending machine

Schenectady City Schools superintendent Anibal Soler, left, talks to Martin Luther King Elementary School students Cecilia Ospitan, Mahnendra Ramdaill and Amari Brown, all 8, about the importance of books and reading before they tried out the new book vending machine in the school's waiting room on Sept. 29, 2021.
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Schenectady City Schools superintendent Anibal Soler, left, talks to Martin Luther King Elementary School students Cecilia Ospitan, Mahnendra Ramdaill and Amari Brown, all 8, about the importance of books and reading before they tried out the new book vending machine in the school's waiting room on Sept. 29, 2021.

SCHENECTADY – Third-graders at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School put special coins into a vending machine that dispensed knowledge instead of snacks and drinks.

The Hamilton Hill neighborhood school unveiled its bookworm vending machine on Wednesday.

Principal Kristin Munrett explained that when a teacher recognizes a student’s tendency to persevere, or display an aptitude in “working hard at working really hard,” the pupil will be given a coupon.

Munrett will then make an announcement at about 1:45 p.m. each day inviting any student with a coupon to the main office to exchange the coupon for a coin. The student will then be accompanied to the machine to get a free book.

During Wednesday’s reveal, Munrett and Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. met with three coin-earners: Amari Brown, Mahendra Ramdiall and Cecilia Osititan, each 8 and in third grade.

Amari and Mehendra chose “Dog Man,” among a series of books about a partial dog, part man police officer/hero by cartoonist Dav Pilkey.

Cecilia chose “One Love” about the famous song by late reggae legend Bob Marley. 

Amari said he’d been wanting “Dog Man” for a while, and Mahendra said he plans to read his new book to his 7-month-old brother.

Cecilia said she chose “One Love” because “it looks pretty cool.”

Munrett, a one-time Schenectady Teacher of the Year, explained why the school chose books as an incentive.

“They want to read,” she said. “They need books. Everybody needs more books. Everybody loves a new book.”

Munrett said the school holds a book fair and students can always go to the library.

But the vending machine offered something special, she said.

The school also holds a monthly academic seminar for which an assembly in the gym is held in recognition of students’ academic proficiency and/or effort. Each classroom teacher nominates one student for math and reading.

Munrett said educators noticed that the students wore their medals from the seminar with pride.

“It was cool to be smart and to have that, so we’re focusing on that here,” Munrett said, in explaining the vending machine initiative.

Soler told the students reading had the power to take their imagination to different places, and the practice of reading bodes well for their success in middle school and high school.

“If we don’t get you reading by third grade, that’s a big deal,” he said.

Reach reporter Brian Lee at 518-419-9766, [email protected] or @bleeschenectady on Twitter.

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