FORT HUACHUCA — In an increasingly digital-reliant age, reading paper books has become more and more of a rare phenomenon amongst our youth, especially when digital titles and social-media apps provide instantaneous multi-media entertainment with just a tap or swipe.

However, there’s been a recent development that’s encouraged more student reading within General Myer Elementary School on Fort Huachuca. Three weeks ago, a book vending machine was installed inside the school, carrying a wide selection of paperback titles for the third-fifth grade student body to purchase with tokens.

The idea of getting the vending machine was initiated by the Executive Director of Instruction and Achievement at the Fort Huachuca Accommodation School District, Jennifer Truitt-Lewis, and by the General Myer Elementary School principal, Sam Granillo. From ordering the machine six months ago to installing it three weeks ago, the students are in their second week of using their earned tokens to purchase some of the titles inside.

Granillo said the main motivation behind getting the book vending machine was to encourage and foster students’ love of reading.

“We follow the four B’s at this school which is: be kind, be responsible, be respectful, and be safe. It’s (book vending machine) just reinforcing that week after week. We’re going to keep loading it up with different books, different genres . . . There should be a book in there that matches what they’re (the students) looking for. It’s definitely important to read not only for academics but to read for enjoyment as well,” Granillo said.

When asked about the inspiration behind getting the vending machine in the school, Truitt-Lewis said they wanted to “provide our students with something they could own, a book that they could own to spark that love of reading and to really get books in the hands of our students.”

Granillo said that once a week the teachers at General Myer will assign tokens to their students based on good merit and assisting teachers and staff around the school. These tokens are the currency that’s used to purchase the books from the vending machine.

Weekly on Thursdays, the teachers submit their students’ names for tokens to Granillo, and after receiving them, he films a video announcing the names of those who’ve been awarded tokens for that week. In the video, Granillo greets the student body enthusiastically after setting down a book he was reading and announces the names of the students who’ve won tokens for the week.

On Friday morning, the teachers present Granillo’s video in their classrooms, which informs the students of the token winners.

One by one the students line up in front of the vending machine to select which book to purchase, their excitement evident from the giggles of anticipation coming from underneath their masks. After the token has been inserted, the student dials a letter-number combo that correlates to the column and row of each book’s location. After the spiral rings retract, the book drops from the row and into the holding bay for the student to retrieve.

When it comes to the selection process for the books inside of the machine, Granillo and Truitt-Lewis said they select titles from the scholastic website’s list of recommended books for grades 3 through 5. After reviewing the synopsis of the listed titles, Granillo and Truitt-Lewis make their selections.

Granillo said the students’ response to the vending machine has been very positive. “They’re stoked. . .They’re just excited. It’s yet another way we just try to really reinforce positive behavior. It’s a balance of a positive behavior and a love of reading, it goes hand and hand at this school.”

When asked about parents’ response to the machine, Truitt-Lewis mentioned that the Parent Teacher Organization at General Myer was,“very involved in spending scholastic dollars to help fill the machine.”

The book vending machine at General Myer not only is unique to the school but also in its concept. According to the principal’s secretary, Lisa Abrahamson, the book vending machine at General Myer is the 170th one made. Adding to the vending machine’s originality is custom artwork that contains symbolism of the Fort Huachuca area and General Myer school.

“This wrap is a custom wrap and it was designed by one of our parents, Robert Faust. . .The purpose behind it is to show that love of reading with our students surrounding, so there’s the desert landscape, you have the banner, the General Myer Elementary banner,” Truitt-Lewis said about the artwork. “Of course, we’re the eagles, so the eagle is in the American flag. And then as you look there’s little symbolization through the bottom, the dandelions stand for our military children.”

General Myer Elementary is the only school at Fort Huachuca that has a book vending machine.

“I think everyone should have a book vending machine, but of course it’s not cheap. So I think it would be really great to see it across the district and (we’re) looking for opportunities to do that,” Truitt-Lewis said.