The Adam Craig Foundation made a special donation this week to Parkside Elementary School in Tenino. A vending machine that dispenses educational goodies — books, to be precise — was unveiled inside the library of the elementary school.
Craig, who was in town for the annual Four Square Mile Music Festival hosted by his foundation, was on hand to help his niece Sydney choose the first book from one of the 20 slots inside the machine. A custom wrap featured the Parkside Penguin mascot and a photo of Hayley Burke, Sydney’s twin sister who died earlier this year following a battle with osteosarcoma.
“Hayley spent three years of her life basically staying in at recess, playing games in the library, reading in the library, coloring pictures, because she couldn’t go outside due to her cancer treatment,” said Parkside Elementary School Principal Brock Williams. “I just thought it was extremely fitting, since it was the Adam Craig Foundation donating the machine, that Adam was on there, and that it would be very fitting to have Hayley on there with her uncle.”
According to the manufacturer, the Bookworm Vending Machine dispenses books using golden tokens that students earn for things like good behavior, attendance and academic performance. Williams said Parkside staff haven’t finalized the system with which they will award students with tokens, though he hopes each will earn at least a couple per year.
Someone tried to use a quarter to trigger the machine, as if to test whether it really didn’t require money, Williams said. The quarter did not cause the machine to vend a book.
Kristi Burke, Adam Craig’s older sister who runs his namesake foundation, showed Williams a video of a similar machine shared by a friend who teaches at a school in South Carolina. Williams told her it would be great to have one in Tenino, once they could fundraise the nearly $5,000 needed to pay for it, at which point Burke told him the foundation would take care of it.
“From what we understand, we are the first school in the state to have a vending machine for books,” Williams said. “The Spokane Public Library has one where people can use their library cards. It’s kind of like a video rental though, where they have to return the book. Kids here can keep the books they earn.”
The addition of a literary appliance to Parkside Elementary fits with the staff goal of putting books in the hands of as many children as possible.
Williams said that it became a personal focus of his 20 years ago, when he saw a little girl sobbing while holding a book during an annual book exchange. Asked why she was upset, the girl responded that she wasn’t, she was happy to be holding her first book.
“About half of our students come from families who don’t have a lot,” Williams said. “Reading is so important at this level, so it’s become part of our mission here at the school.”