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Push A4, read “The Boy Next Door”

Vending machine dispenses books

Godfrey Lee — Students at Godfrey Elementary School were bursting with curiosity over a large object in the hallway wrapped in bright green paper and a bow.

“I want to get the paper off there. The kids are getting excited to see what’s under the wrapping,” said Harry Coffill, district media specialist, minutes before the unveiling of the surprise. 

Coffill welcomed Vickey Hopkins’ third-graders to their first media center visit and asked if they had any guesses what was under the mysterious wrappings. 

Hands shot up, guesses of “books” and “chapter books” proved to be spot-on. Their patience was finally rewarded when Coffill gave them the OK to tear off the paper, revealing a brand-new book vending machine.

“It’s like Christmas!” a voice exclaimed from those gathered. 

Following the theme of gift giving, one coin was awarded to get the first book out of the machine. 

“We asked teachers from each class to pick a student who will receive a coin to use in the machine,” Coffill said. “One of our goals is for every student to eventually have a chance to use the machine. Reading is more joyful when everyone has the opportunity to get a book.” 

Eliana, or Ellie, Sivins was the lucky student selected by her teacher to use the first coin. She took her time perusing all the titles and then made her choice to push A4 and get “The Boy Next Door” by Laura Dower.

“This one seemed interesting and I like all the colors on the cover, so I chose it,” Ellie said

Principal Johana Rodriguez-Quist also helped the teachers hand out Smarties to all of Ms. Hopkins’ students “because they’re smart,” Coffill said. 

Rodriguez-Quist and Coffill credited former Godfrey Elementary principal and current Lee High School principal Andy Steketee for helping to make the book vending machine a reality.

During his time as principal, Steketee envisioned it as an opportunity for students to get their hands on new books and recognize their good behavior. 

“As a PBIS school, (positive behavioral intervention and support) we want to reward students when they display positive behaviors in the classroom,” Steketee said. “I’m part of the West Michigan Leadership Academy School Leader Fellowship cohort, and have access to $5,000 to put towards efforts that increase equity and literacy opportunities for our students.”

In addition to grant funds, a $1,000 private donation went toward buying the books, he said.

Following the unveiling, Coffill led students into the media center to check out books with help from the library parapro Susan McCaffrey. 

The students made their selections and lined up to check out. Ellie found a book about cats to read alongside her new book.

“Cat books are my favorite to read,” she said.

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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