The new vending machine at Ferry Farm Elementary School in Stafford County doesn’t dispense candy bars or packages of chips.

It dispenses books.

Last week, fourth-grader Adrian Ayala Ortega was the first student to try out Inchy the Bookworm Vending Machine. He slipped a gold coin into the machine, punched a few buttons and out slid the book of his choice—“Where is Area 51” part of the “Who HQ” series of biographies and histories for kids.

He’d already identified the book he wanted the day before, when we was on safety patrol duty around the corner from the vending machine.

Adrian, 10—who’s also a Harry Potter junkie currently reading the fourth book in the series—was chosen by his teacher, Danielle Chambers, and Ferry Farm administration be the first to use the new book vending machine.

“He was chosen for his outstanding effort in reading,” Chambers said.

Principal Robert Freeman installed the vending machine because he wanted to “try something to get the kids to want to read.”

Kids can earn special gold tokens from their classroom teachers when they excel or improve at reading. They can use the tokens to purchase a book to keep from the vending machine.

“The kids have asked, ‘We really get to keep the books forever?’ ” Chambers said. “They’re excited.”

Freeman bought the vending machine, which cost just under $4,000, using school funds. The Ferry Farm Parent Teacher Association bought 400 books to stock it, using credits the school earns for hosting Scholastic book fairs.

“We had a lot of fun shopping for it,” said Freeman.

The PTA has also donated $1,400 to refill the vending machine as needed.

There are books for all reading levels, from early-readers for the kindergarten set to Harry Potter, the Who HQ series and others for older elementary students.

Only the gold coins will work in the vending machine.

Freeman said he’s already discovered quarters in it, showing that curious students have been eager to try it out.

For now, students will be able to use their gold coins in the machine on Fridays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will be a teacher manning the machine during that time to help children make their selection.

Adrian’s parents, Reyna and Bernardo Ayala Ortega, visited the school last week to watch their son cut the ribbon to open the vending machine.

They were gleeful as they watched him pick out his book.

“We’re so proud of him,” Reyna said.

Adele Uphaus–Conner:

540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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