Character matters and at Cedar Hill Elementary School when students demonstrate exceptional character they will receive a golden coin that can be used in the school's new Book Box Vending Machine. (VIDEO - How the Book Box Vending Machine fits into Cedar Hill Character Education)
“Chances are [students] have never seen a book vending machine,” Reading Specialist Ann Fisher said. “This is unique, and it is our hope that it will motivate children to read more actual books. Students are reading a lot on-line these days, but to have a book of your own is very motivating, and, self-selection [of a book] is also very motivating. We have chosen [a selection of] non-fiction as well as fiction books.”
Virtual student Luca Donnini, a second grader, received the first Book Box book at the machine's unveiling on Thursday, September 24, 2020. Luca was set to receive his prize in spring 2020, but the Book Box Vending Machine arrived about a week after COVID-19 required schools in New Jersey to shut down.
Donnini exhibited outstanding character last spring when, as a first grade student, he and his classmates each received a prize. On that particular day, a new student had arrived, and there were not enough prizes for everyone. Donnini volunteered to give his prize to the new student so that she would feel welcomed in her new school.
Back in session since September 8, 2020, Cedar Hill Elementary arranged for a formal dedication of the Book Box Vending Machine on September 24. Despite being a full-time virtual student for the 2020-2021 academic year, Donnini still had an opportunity to virtually participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony and choose his book. During the Book Box dedication ceremony, Special Services Speech and Language teacher Stephanie Perillo-Gentile helped Donnini see the book choices, as he viewed the presentation on his laptop. After Donnini selected the book “I Survived Hurricane Katrina,” from the “I Survived” series of books by author Lauren Tarshis, Perillo-Gentile and Montville Educational Foundation President Daria Senaldi-Romeo inserted the golden “Inchy the Book Worm” token and pressed the selection buttons “A-6.” Once the book was dispensed, Superintendent Dr. René Rovtar volunteered to deliver the book to Donnini at his home.
Each book dispensed from the Book Box Vending Machine will be signed by Cedar Hill Elementary School Principal Dr. Michael Raj, who will also write the student’s name in the book.
The principal explained that the Book Box Vending Machine was purchased with a grant from Montville Educational Foundation.
A book plate from MEF will also be placed inside of each book.
The personalization of each book acknowledges the student’s choice and achievement in receiving a book for an extraordinary act of kindness or selflessness.
The MEF book plates say: “The MEF congratulates you on earning your new book. We know it is well-deserved.”
“There is something here for everybody and at every reading level,” Raj said about the vending machine’s selection of books. “We have books for our youngest and our oldest readers.”
Raj noted that the machine, as well as the additional stash of titles that are waiting at the ready to maintain the vending machine’s stock, includes a widely diverse selection. There are titles for pre-kindergarten to grade five. Titles such as Mo Willems’ “Knuffle Bunny Free” and “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” by Rick Riordan can all be found in the book vending machine.
“Montville Educational Foundation is absolutely thrilled that we were given this opportunity [to fund this project], Senaldi-Romeo said.
“We loved this idea from the start,” she noted when discussing the vending machine’s connection to reading and the school’s character education program. “It is so exciting because it really bridges the gap between literacy and encouragement for each child to recognize their contribution – what they did for another child, or something good in-and-of itself. The reward with it makes it so personalized.”
The MEF book plate message also contains a quote from Dr. Seuss: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
The Book Box Vending Machine is decorated with bright books. In addition, the side panels of the vending machine are customized to feature the red and white Cedar Hill logo that includes the official Montville Township Public Schools’ shield. Also on the sides is the official Cedar Hill National Blue Ribbon School logo. The MEF logo is displayed on the front of the machine.
“It was a good idea, I admit!” Donnini said, when asked about the experience of receiving a book for demonstrating exceptional character.
“We are just so thrilled to have actually put this grant together for you,” Senaldi-Romeo concluded.
Montville Educational Foundation President Daria Senaldi-Romeo, Reading Specialist Ann Fisher, Special Services Speech and Language teacher Stephanie Perillo-Gentile, Cedar Hill Elementary School Principal Dr. Michael Raj, Joanne Lopez of the Montville branch of Blue Foundry Bank and Montville Township Public Schools Superintendent Dr. René Rovtar attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Book Box Vending Machine at Cedar Hill.
Joanne Lopez of the Montville branch of Blue Foundry Bank was also in attendance, the bank’s past contributions helped to make the MEF Book Box Vending Machine grant possible. Following the ceremony Lopez presented MEF with an additional $200 donation for future projects.
Cedar Hill Elementary School is a pre-kindergarten to grade five educational facility located in Towaco, New Jersey. It is one of five elementary schools in the Montville Township Public Schools district. In addition to five elementary schools MTPS is also home to Robert R. Lazar Middle School and Montville Township High School. Nearly 300 of the district’s 3,400 students attend Cedar Hill Elementary School. Montville Township is comprised of Montville, Pine Brook and Towaco, NJ. All those who attended the brief dedication ceremony wore facial coverings and practiced social distancing.
A video of the ceremony can be viewed on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel.