WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Hoxsie Elementary School student Hailey Miller had an important decision to make.
The fourth grader was the first student to earn a gold coin, which grants access to the school’s brand new vending machine.
But it’s not your ordinary vending machine.
Instead of picking out a snack or drink, Miller was choosing which book she wanted to read.
Principal Gary McCoombs told 12 News that as soon as he saw another local school’s book vending machine, he knew Hoxsie had to get one.
“I just said, ‘We need one of those at our school,'” he recalled. “I was so jealous.”
The unique vending machine wasn’t cheap, costing $7,500 total.
The price tag was staggering for a Title I school, which is why PTO President Tana Murphy initially told McCoombs it wasn’t in the budget.
That is, until Hoxsie won a Feinstein Golden Ticket award and had a really successful “Color Run” fundraiser.
When all was said and done, Murphy said she knew exactly what she was going to spend the money on.
“Literacy is so important to our kiddos … we needed to get this,” Murphy said.
The vending machine is custom-made and even has the Hoxsie logo printed on its side.
It also includes flashing lights and voice commands to guide students through the process.
The books are in order by reading level, with the lowest on the bottom row and the highest at the top.
Students can earn a gold coin through meeting Hoxsie’s three R’s: respect, responsibility and readiness. Gold coins will also be given to students on their birthdays.
“Some families can’t afford books, or don’t have the opportunity to go to the library,” McCoombs added. “Every child is going to get at least one book this year.”
Miller, who earned her gold coin by leading a recent evacuation drill, chose a book from the bottom row.
When asked why, she said she wanted to read it to her 5-year-old brother.
“It’ll be a surprise for him,” she beamed.
The PTO plans to fundraise throughout the year to keep the vending machine well stocked.