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MCHD WIC book vending machine

Holding her nearly 2-year-old son, Orion, Amy Gibb allows him to place a token in the slot of the new book vending machine at Monongalia County Health Department’s WIC building.

Then he points to a title — or maybe it was the cover illustration that caught his eye.

Out pops “The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read,” an appropriate choice considering how important books are to Gibb and Orion.

“In the past few months, he’s really become fascinated by stories,” said Gibb, of Morgantown. “He brings us the same books over and over again. It’s really helpful to initiate conversation as we work on his verbal skills. It’s really helped his vocabulary.”

Gibb, who has always been a bookworm herself, is thrilled that Orion has another source of reading material.

And Cami Haught, manager of MCHD WIC, is happy that the federally funded nutrition program has offerings for participants that help feed the mind as well as the belly.

“Honestly, I think both the kids and the parents are excited to see it,” she said of the vending machine, which is located in the entryway of the MCHD WIC building on Elmer Prince Drive. “They say, ‘That’s really cool.’ And the kids are excited to push the button and get the book out of the vending machine.”

Three book vending machines — part of a program called “Born to Achieve-I CAN READ — are components of an early literacy pilot project facilitated by a $50,000 Sparking Early Literacy Grant and sponsored by the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative (WVPEC) in conjunction with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Matching funds were offered from private donors to purchase book vending machines. In addition to MCHD WIC, the other two are located at the Wood County WIC and the WVU Medicine Pediatric and Adolescent Care office at the University Towne Center.