Parkway Elementary School invests in reading, unveils bookworm vending machine.
By Joycelyne Fadojutimi/ www.easttexasreview.com
The inability to read in 3rd grade is a pipeline to prison.

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a 4th grade level: “Meaning they lack the reading skills to navigate many everyday tasks or hold down anything but lower (paying) jobs.” Data supports that those without sufficient income earned by honest hard work are the most prone to crime, a life of drugs and violence. Children from all walks of life must learn to read proficiently. Reading is the most crucial academic skill because it is the foundation for learning. Through third grade children are learning to read; after third grade students read to learn. Sadly, only one-in-three students read proficiently by that point.

Furthermore, without a strong foundation in reading, children are left behind at the beginning of their education. They lag in every class, year after year because more than 85 percent of the curriculum is taught by reading. Hence, by the end of third grade, 74 percent of struggling readers won’t ever catch up. As a matter of fact, several studies have shown that one of the most important predictors of graduating from high school is reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

For these reasons, Pine Tree ISD Executive Principal Derrick Conley and Pine Tree Parkway Elementary School Principal Melanie Keoun, recently unveiled a bookworm vending machine. There are all sorts of vending machines in schools why not a book vending machine?

“The bookworm vending machine allows students to earn and own their own books,” said Executive Principal Derrick Conley. The robust results are already obvious. In a six-week period, students have read 10,000 books. “We want to find what students love to read. Too many times disadvantaged students do not see books in their homes,” said Conley. “So, at Parkway elementary, students get the opportunity to earn tokens and pick out the books they want. The best part is they get to keep the books. Soon, they begin to build up their library in a home where books never existed.”

Keoun explained further. Her goal was to create better readers especially in the 3rd and 4th grades. Hence, parents read to their students vice-versa and teachers to students and vice-versa.
Getting tokens for books means hard work and respect for others. According to Conley, it teaches students that their current undesirable situation is temporary. You can escape and change your situation with reading. There are more incentives for reading.

If a student is seen reading, they get a ticket (token) for the bookworm vending machine. If they come up with word of the day for the school, they get a ticket (token) also. Conley is thrilled about the results. “Students are reading and finding new words. They are explaining the meanings as well which is very admirable,” he said. Their vocabulary is growing, and this is exciting.”

It is important to note that Conley credits Keoun and her staff for the bookworm vending machine and the reading explosion that is occurring at Parkway elementary school. “Melanie and her whole staff are doing a great job. And we are very appreciative of her teachers.”