MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — Vending machines for children’s books have been added to two places in Morgantown, and they are already benefitting the community.

The machines allow children who are participating in WIC programs to use free tokens to choose their own books, and it’s already a hit, according to a release from the Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD).

“Honestly, I think both the kids and the parents are excited to see it,” said Cami Haught, manager of MCHD WIC. “They say, ‘That’s really cool.’ And the kids are excited to push the button and get the book out of the vending machine.”

There are currently only three book vending machines in West Virginia. Two have been added in Monongalia County, one at the Monongalia County Health Department WIC and one at the WVU Medicine Pediatric and Adolescent Care office at the University Town Center, and a third is in Wood County at the WIC.

The machines, which are part of the “Born to Achieve-I CAN READ” program, were brought to life thanks to a $50,000 Sparking Early Literacy Grant and sponsorship by the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative (WVPEC) in conjunction with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

According to the MCHD, each machine holds 200 books: 10 copies of 20 different options.

Melissa Workman, director of the WVU Child Development Laboratory School, said that the machines are already getting children more excited about reading.

“The reaction is heartwarming, empowering and exciting,” Workman said. “WIC counselors report that children and families are very excited to come in for visits because the child receives a coin to select a book from the vending machine. Having the opportunity to select a book is very empowering and motivating to young children.”

“We have always given away books at WIC, but the book vending machine gives children the freedom to choose,” said MCHD WIC nutritionist Sierra Rosales. “I love seeing the look on the children’s faces when they grab their books out of the bottom of the machine.”

Rosales also said that she hopes the vending machines will encourage WIC participants to come back to the office in person after the pandemic.

“I hope the vending machine leaves a positive impression with our families and encourages them to return more often,” Rosales said.

Several Morgantown WIC families, such as Amy Gibbs and her two-year-old son Orion and Brittany Taylor and her two-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, are already using and appreciate the book vending machine.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Taylor said. “Aaliyah loves books. We read almost every day.”

Like Orion and Aaliyah have both already started book collections thanks to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and WIC programs.

“We have created our own book collection,” Gibb added. “Free books have been amazing. It’s really grown our collection and helps us access books we wouldn’t have known about otherwise.”