Harlem Students Earn Reading Rewards From Vending Machine

When a principal noticed her students weren’t reading, she made it her mission to get them excited about learning. Enter a vending machine filled with books.

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At Mosaic Prep Elementary School in Harlem, New York, students try to stay on their best behavior. While many of us grew up with pizza parties and ice cream socials as rewards for good grades or manners, these students are rewarded with something they can cherish for years: a good book.


Lisette Caesar, principal of Mosaic, noticed that many students were not reading during the pandemic. Understandably, learning online can be difficult for children when they are used to learning with physical handouts and textbooks. So when the school returned to in-person learning, Ceasar made it her mission to get her students reading again. She states, ” I saw in Kansas and Texas that they had a book vending machine. I said…’I’m going to get that for my school.'” While Ceasar wrote various letters asking for donations, she ultimately took money from her own savings to pay for the vending machine.

Even though the machine did not fit through the doors of the school when it arrived, Caesar made sure to make this dream a reality for her students. As difficult as the journey was, it was all worth it. The students love earning and savings coupons to take a trip to the school vending machine. “I just really believe in making sure all of my scholars have books at home,” says Caesar. And because of her, the students at Mosaic Prep will never be without.

To read another story about how reading champions are today’s heroes, click here.