Waccamaw Elementary School’s new vending machine isn’t filled with candy bars and snacks.
Theirs is filled with free books.
PTO Treasurer Stephanie Phillips’ husband saw a viral video of a book vending machine in a school in New York and shared it with her, saying WES needed one.
Phillips worked hard with the PTO to work with local business partners including Horry Telephone Cooperative to obtain the machine from Global Vending Group. The machine holds 20 different books and has a capacity of approximately 200 copies. The Book Warehouse on Highway 501 in Conway gave a large discount on books for the machine.
The PTO was able to keep it a secret from the teachers and students for weeks. The $4,000 refurbished machine was paid for entirely by the PTO from donations and school fundraisers.
Phillips said that it is an ongoing project, since they plan to stock the machine with new books frequently.
Before the presentation of the new machine, Principal Leslie Huggins was eager to share the surprise with the children. She said they had many guesses as to what was inside the big box outside of their gym.
Huggins said some students thought it was a new mascot, some thought it might be a statue of Mrs. Huggins herself.
“Our kids are going to be so excited!” Huggins said.
Student Council President Wyatt Johnson and Student Council Vice President Karleigh Floyd did the official ribbon cutting honors. Twelve children from various grades were chosen to be some of the first use the special gold coins used to retrieve books from the machine.
Huggins told the children after the big reveal that she had been so excited about the surprise, she “almost couldn’t sleep.”
Teachers will use the gold coins that activate the machine as incentives in the classroom. Currently the children earn stickers towards sticker charts, and now they will have the choice to turn in their completed sticker charts for a gold coin to choose a book.
The books won’t belong to the WES library, either. The books from the machine become property of the student who chooses them.
“Many children don’t have access to books at home, this is a really big deal,” Huggins said.
The books inside come in all lexile levels to accommodate children from any grade, K-5.