Lithia Springs Elementary School fourth grade teacher Barbara Mittelstadt and Principal Kevin Martin were instrumental in bringing a book vending machine to the school.

Students at Valrico’s Lithia Springs Elementary have a popular new incentive that is encouraging them to read. A book vending machine was installed in the school’s cafeteria last month and has quickly become a very effective way for teachers and staff to promote good behavior and literature.

Fourth grade teacher Barbara Mittelstadt learned about the vending machines from a Twitter post and decided it would be a great addition to the school.

“Right away I saw the advantages a book vending machine would bring for some of our students,” said Mittelstadt. “It is such a novel concept and makes books exciting and fun.”

The school purchased the vending machine from www.globalvendinggroup.com thanks to funds from the Lithia Springs PTA and an anonymous vendor. The first round of books for the machine were purchased with money from a Hillsborough County Education Foundation grant and Mittelstadt is using creative ways to keep the machine stocked, including setting up a wish list on Amazon and using deals and credits from Scholastic books.

When a student is seen going above and beyond around campus by a member of the Lithia Springs staff, they are awarded a Hero Ticket. Everyone who earns a Hero Ticket is placed in a drawing and the chosen students are given tokens for a book from the vending machine.

“Some of our students have never been able to pick out a brand new book that they can keep,” said Mittelstadt. “This experience makes reading exciting for them and I feel that it helps them take a huge step towards becoming book lovers.”

Students were able to pick out 125 books in the first month.

“In an age where books are competing so fiercely with technology, it is great to have a way to make the students excited about putting actual books in their hands,” said Mittelstadt.

The school is looking for sponsors to help them keep the book vending machine full and Mittelstadt and the school’s principal, Kevin Martin, have many creative ideas for developing partnerships with local businesses.

“There has been so much buzz on campus about the vending machine,” said Martin. “I wish all schools could have one.”

Lithia Springs Elementary is located at 4332 Lynx Paw Trl. in Valrico and can be reached at 744-8016. For more information on the book vending machines, visit www.globalvendinggroup.com.