The initiative is intended to increase access to books for early childhood families as well as promote children's reading habits outside of the school environment.
The Turner Early Childhood program is focused on promoting and supporting early literacy skills, which are integral to a student's academic success. This drive has led to partnerships with local literacy-based organizations, such as Lead to Read KC, Turn the Page KC, and Literacy KC. Through that partnership, an opportunity emerged: a book vending machine. The initiative is intended to increase access to books for early childhood families as well as promote children's reading habits outside of the school environment.
"The ability to read well is vital to school success. If a child can have access to books early on, they are well on the path to learning success," says Copple, the district's early childhood coordinator.
These literacy-based partnerships began three years ago when the district increased early childhood literacy outreach in the community through a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. That grant led to the hiring of an early childhood staff member, focused on community outreach for families with children under the age of five. From that outreach came partnerships with literacy-based organizations - notably, the partnership with Literacy KC, which is in it's third year.
That partnership led to Lead to Read and Turn the Page KC reaching out to the district with a unique proposal: a book vending machine. Recognizing the potential and the community benefits, the early childhood program staff embraced it. The machine now resides at Turner Sixth Grade Academy, chosen partly for its proximity to the district's early childhood building. Additionally, the location ensures easy accessibility for families in the neighborhood, and, importantly, promotes a joy of reading to sixth grade students.
Designed to store around 250 books, the vending machine allows students to feed in a token and choose a book they'd like to take home. The books vary between titles suited for our youngest readers up through sixth grade. District elementary schools and the early childhood program will manage the provision of these tokens, with the books serving as rewards and incentives.
Support from the HDR Foundation, a philanthropic entity associated with global design firm HDR, backed Turn the Page KC's involvement in the project. While they will replenish the book stocks for the initial three years, Lead to Read KC and Literacy KC provided funding for the vending machine.
When the vending machine installation was complete, the district hosted a reveal and invited students, early childhood families, and all the partners who made the initiative possible. "We couldn't be more excited for this fantastic opportunity!" shared Copple.
Thank you to our wonderful partners for making this possible! You can learn more about each organization below.
- Lead to Read KC is a children's literacy nonprofit dedicated to supporting the social, emotional and reading skills that are foundational to student success. It does this by mobilizing community volunteers, called Reading Mentors, to read one-to-one with students attending high-need elementary schools across Kansas City, as well as through its tutoring program, its Reading Is Everywhere community book distribution initiative, and its author visit program.
- Turn the Page KC is a collective impact organization that focuses on increasing literacy in and across Greater Kansas City. The nonprofit curates resources and brings together youth literacy advocates to connect them with communities raising the next generation of Kansas Citians.
- Literacy KC offers a welcoming community for adults and families to improve literacy skills and enhance quality of life. With support from volunteers, donors, partners, and the community at large, Literacy KC invests in Kansas City’s greatest asset – our people.