BEECH GROVE, Ind. — An idea championed by a Beech Grove school social worker was made a reality this week thanks to community donations.
At Hornet Park Elementary, school social worker Melissa Keeley helps pre-K through first graders. She works through trauma and conflict with the children and to develop confidence and character.
Books are a big part of her lesson plans.
In February, 13News told you about a fundraiser she had started to get the school a book vending machine. She needed to raise about $5,000 and was taking donations of books to put in the machine.
The idea was to put more books in the homes of young children and the method was pretty unique.
Months later, her book vending machine dream was made a reality.
Keeley shared a photo with 13News on Monday of the vending machine now installed at Hornet Elementary School.
Not pop, not chips, but books are behind the glass.
It operates on tokens and instead of spitting out snickers and sodas, this vending machine dispenses books.
The books are completely free. Kids will earn them as a reward for good behavior, like respect and responsibility.
Keeley said having books at home is especially important in her school, where more than half the students are in low-income households and many are dealing with trauma at home.
"They don't have an escape when they're at home and a book that you love lets you enter a whole different reality and lose yourself in something," Keeley explained to 13News in February, "We want them to have those opportunities they wouldn't have if they didn't have a book. When you have something that is yours that you can share ... with your little brother, or your little sister, or your mom can read to you at night, it means so much more than 'I have to give this back to my teacher tomorrow.'"
She had previously been rewarding students with a "Happy Hive" cart. When the cart rolled into the classroom, kids would get treats and trinkets earned with points for positive behavior.
"Everybody is so excited for that," she said at the time. "Sometimes they get little things like slime or a small box of crayons."