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Book Vending Machine Installed at Bessemer Family Court

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This endeavor will help to build in-home libraries while increasing reading engagement and fighting summer learning loss. (Cora Causey, Ph.D. Photo)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education has partnered with the Children’s Policy Council of Jefferson County to provide the CPC’s second children’s book vending machine at Bessemer Family Court.

The children’s book vending machine is located on the second-floor family waiting area and provides age-appropriate books at no cost to families. UAB professors and teacher candidates provide guidance on the selection of book titles along with additional family resources to support reading.

“Bessemer was the natural choice for a second vending machine since the Bessemer division is the only other Family Court in Jefferson County,” said Cora Causey, Ph.D., assistant professor of early childhood education in the UAB School of Education and Human Sciences. “We are grateful Commissioner Sheila Tyson was generous in providing the support and that Bessemer Family Court Judge Lorraine Pringle is helping get books in children’s hands. Ensuring that the first children’s book vending machine project launched smoothly was important.”

To date, the first book vending machine at Jefferson County Family Court has provided just shy of 2,000 books to children. The funds were pledged at the initial ribbon-cutting a year ago by Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson. Jeanine Hunt Hilliard, Family Court presiding judge continues to champion this project. CPC Executive Director Shelly Mize, Ph.D., and her office secured book grant funding and create effective processes.

“Since the ribbon-cutting for the first children’s book vending machine, our fundraising efforts have been building momentum,” Mize said. “Public and private donations and grants have been awarded. This has forged new partnerships and provided us with the necessary resources to help sustain both machines.”

According to the United States Department of Education, many children from under-resourced settings enter school behind their peers in reading. This gap only widens over the summer, as these children are less likely to have access to books and other reading materials at home. As a result, they fall behind by an average of two months each summer.

“The children’s book vending machine is an excellent example of community collaboration to support grade-level reading,” Mize said. “Caregivers at Family Court can sign up for a free token, and children can use the token to select a book from the vending machine to take home.”

This endeavor will help to build in-home libraries while increasing reading engagement and fighting summer learning loss.

“It has been exciting to see family members reading to their young children and older children reading to younger children,” Causey said. “The initial project was aimed at toddlers through third-grade children, focusing on helping children read at grade level by the end of third grade. However, court staff have not turned away any child who has asked for a token. Therefore, Dr. Mize has purchased a wider variety of books, branching into chapter books and graphic novels to interest older readers.”

“It is our desire that as a result the children and families will reap the benefits, which include lowered anxiety, a desire to read on their own and, most of all, overall enjoyment of reading,” Causey said. “When a child can select a new book independently, it holds significant importance.”