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Matt Elementary School unveils new book vending machine to kick off Read-A-Thon fundraiser
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Students help Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden cut the ceremonial ribbon on Matt Elementary's new book vending machine. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Matt Elementary School recently held a ribbon-cutting to unveil its new book vending machine and kick off this year’s fundraiser, a Read-A-Thon for students, which begins on Monday, Sept. 14. 

School administration, staff and students were all excited to see the new book vending machine in the hallway right next to the school’s media center starting in June. As school tours started over the summer, parents started asking questions immediately when they saw it: “What is that? And how can my child use it?” 

The answer is simple. 

The vending machine falls in line with Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden’s initiative to implement the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, which provides support to students and incentivizes positive behavior. 

Students can earn PBIS points when they exhibit good behavior anytime at school and in the classroom, and students can exchange their points for rewards at the PBIS store on the Matt Elementary campus. 

Now, with the book vending machine, students can use the points to get books to take home and call their own. 

“We saw how excited the kids would get during the book fair, but also recognized that not every child was able to purchase their own book,” said Sarah Johnson, a spokesperson for the school’s Parent Teacher Organization Board. 

PTO Co-President Candy Joiner said that now every child at Matt Elementary has the opportunity to start their own little library collection at home. 

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Matt Elementary students Emily and Carson White ready themselves for the ribbon-cutting ceremony held after school. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
Johnson said that the new book vending machine, the first of its kind in Forsyth County, can hold as many as 20 titles and a total of 200 books at one time.  

Administration members helped to donate books to fill up the vending machine for the first time, and they plan to seek out other donors in the near future. Local authors, who plan to also take part in the school’s upcoming Read-A-Thon, have already donated their own titles to be included. 

Emily White, a fourth grader at Matt Elementary, said that she is already saving up her PBIS points to try to buy one of the books and bring it home. She loves to read the “I Survived” book series by Lauren Tarshis and the “Dork Diaries” series by Rachel Renée Russell. 

“Me and my best friend are really excited,” White said. 

PTO Co-President Lindsay Letournou said that the vending machine just seemed like the right fit at Matt Elementary, where staff and administration always emphasize the importance and fun of reading. Visitors can see this book-loving environment even before walking through the school’s front doors as a little library box, designed to look like the house from Disney’s “Up,” sits just outside of the building. 

It was no surprise, then, that when the PTO and administration were trying to think of a fundraiser to try to replace their usual Color Run, their minds immediately went to a Read-A-Thon. 

The week-long Read-A-Thon starts on Monday, Sept. 14, and staff will be encouraging both in-person and virtual students to log their reading time while also asking their parents, friends and family to donate to the school. 

Letournou said that these donations will be used to help fund projects that are not part of the usual school budget. This includes updates to playground equipment, book donations, teacher grants for field trips and activities and much more. 

During the week, students will receive visits from the Book Fairy and have the chance to win fun prizes and rewards in class all while logging in and keeping track of their reading. Local authors from Georgia and Forsyth County will also take part, getting online to read their books to students virtually. 

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From left to right: Assistant Principal Jamie Barnes; Principal Charley Stalder; Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden; Assistant Principal Abby Buchanan; PTO Co-President Candy Joiner; PTO Co-President Lindsay Letourneau; Reading Specialist Gina Thompson; and District PBIS Coach David Feverbach. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Participating authors include Chris Negron, Kristy Hamby, Tracy Walker and Ginger Garrett. Coy Bowles, the Grammy-award winning guitarist in the Zac Brown Band and Georgia author, will also be reading his book, “Behind the Red Door.” 

“I commend Matt Elementary for taking the steps to make this a reality,” Bowles said. “I would love to see other schools following suit and bringing literacy to the forefront through creative ideas like this vending machine …. I always feel that if one child has a light go off or if the book changes them for the better because of reading one of my books then it’s a win-win for everyone. I devote my life to being an advocate for literacy, early education and teacher appreciation. This is what I do with my voice.” 

Bearden and the Matt Elementary PTO and administration members officially unveiled the book vending machine last week with a small, after-school ribbon-cutting. Students helped Bearden cut the yellow ribbon tied around the machine with freshly-sanitized scissors, and Bearden tested the machine with its very first PBIS token. 

“I’m really proud to be here on behalf of the school system,” Bearden said. “We’re promoting two very important objectives today. Obviously, we want our children to establish a love for reading because we know reading is the skill that will take them and lead them to all new discoveries and helps them in every content area. And then obviously, you want to promote positive behaviors as well. Matt has such a strong culture and climate. It’s something I’m really proud of and I know [Matt Elementary Principal Charley Stalder] is proud of here, too.” 

Community members can donate as part of the fundraiser starting on Monday by visiting the PTO’s website, mattespto.ptboard.com