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Everything Your PTO Needs To Know About Book Vending Machines

Everything Your PTO Needs To Know About Book Vending Machines

Encourage a love of reading and positive behavior with a book vending machine. Here's how to make it happen at your school.

by Kerri Beauchesne



One elementary school in Northwest Las Vegas has an unlikely new addition that students are buzzing about—a book vending machine.

Shauna Turner, a PTO volunteer at Henry and Evelyn Bozarth Elementary, is the lead behind this initiative, which she calls “her most proud project” in the past six years she’s been on the PTO. To get books from the vending machine, students use tokens, which are earned, not bought. Tokens are then redeemed for books from the book vending machine. And then, the magic happens: Students get excited about reading.

Recalling a heartfelt moment when two 5th grade students put their tokens together to get a book for a friend who had been feeling down, Turner says, “This is why I have done what I have done for so many years. And more importantly, that is the magic that books have!” We couldn’t agree more!

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If your school is considering a book vending machine, we’ve rounded up everything your parent group needs to know to bring this awesome initiative to life.

How Much Does a Book Vending Machine Cost?

A book vending machine averages between $5,000 and $6,000 (including book tokens and freight). The cost to stock it with books can run between $1,000 and $1,500. To fund this hefty purchase, many school parent groups use the funds generated through school fundraising programs or grant money (more on that below).

Delivery of the vending machine is typically only “to the door,” so be prepared to enlist four to six volunteers to help move this 650-pound machine!

Where To Get One

Inchy's Bookworm Vending Machine (Global Vending Group)

Betson Book Vending Machine (AMS Vending)

Reading for Education Book Rewards Program

Book Tokens

Unlike a traditional vending machine that accepts money, book vending machines take tokens, which come with the machine. Students earn tokens at the discretion of school administration—for example, as part of a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) reward program—and use them to get free books. One pro tip: Don’t give tokens to students until right before they’re about to put them in the machine. While you can get them out of the machine to reuse, replacement tokens can get expensive. One PTO shares that their school gives out golden tickets that kids can exchange for tokens.



Many PTO and PTA groups will use book tokens and a special “trip to the book vending machine” to pick out their own book as a PBIS incentive. Some schools provide vouchers (for tokens) with each student’s name on them to ensure that every student gets one, and then allow individual teachers to give them out however they choose—as birthday gifts, student of the month, achievement, etc. The goal is for teachers to find something positive to celebrate with each student and reward them with a token for a free book. Oh, and “Free Book Friday”? Yep, that’s now a thing:



Most book vending machines hold between 200 to 300 books and have space for 20 different titles. Some schools keep their machines stocked with a variety of age-level books, while others alternate reading levels every few weeks.

When it comes to replenishing your machine with books, the cost will run around $1,500. We asked PTO and PTA leaders to share a few things that have worked for their schools to stock up on books:

• Use the proceeds or “Scholastic dollars” from your school’s book fairs throughout the year. If you use Scholastic dollars and order more than $75, it opens up the dollar section.

• Shop the sales at Target and Walmart.

• Books-A-Million has a “buy 2 get 1 free” sale twice a year, and nonprofits can be set up with a special account that gives 25% off and tax exemption with proof of tax-exempt status.

• PaperPie (formally Usborne Books & More) Literacy for a Lifetime program gets you 50% back in free books with free shipping.

• Shop sites like Book Outlet and TheBookBundler.

• Invite the school community to donate gently used books.

• Invite local businesses to sponsor a row of books in return for advertising on a bookmark placed inside the book.

How Can School Parent Groups Pay for a Book Vending Machine?

Fundraising Ideas and Resources

Fun Run (Free Planning Guide)

School Auction

Reading Pledge Drive or Other Athon Fundraiser

Finding and Winning Grants

When it comes to writing a grant proposal for a book vending machine for your school, noting how students will benefit—how it will be used to improve reading and comprehension to help students prepare for middle school, and for PBIS rewards—will increase the likelihood of receiving grant money. And a note about grants and federal funding: Virtually all formal grants are available only to organizations officially recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. If your group isn’t yet organized as a 501(c)(3) group, check out our Bylaws/Nonprofit resources.


The "Bookcase" Alternative

If your group is unable to fund a book vending machine, Kali Agy, PTA Reading Committee Lead, shared a resourceful idea that's become quite the hit at Canyon View Elementary in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. The school's bookcase is encased in glass and displays a variety of books, which are paid for using Scholastic book fair dollars. Teachers receive a laminated voucher for every student (many use for student birthdays). Students can also earn book vouchers through the school's various reading challenges.


Book vending machines - bookcase alternative


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