▶ Watch Video: NYC students rewarded with book vending machine

At Mosaic Preparatory Academy in Harlem, New York, reading, writing and arithmetic are not the only subjects on the curriculum — so is being nice.

At the elementary school, getting pulled out of class is a good thing. Kids are periodically pulled out of class to be rewarded for being nice.

When 5-year-old King Ortiz was pulled out of class one day, he knew he’d earned something special — coupons for nice behavior that can be redeemed for tokens.

“I learned to be nice,” King said.

Twenty-five coupons score students a shiny token for the vending machine. Tokens go in, but no chips or candy come out — only books drop.

Principal Dr. Lisette Caesar retrofitted a book vending machine to reward being nice at her Harlem elementary school.

Dr. Lisette Caesar

Dr. Lisette Caesar, the school principal, says she noticed that students were reading less and less online during the pandemic.

“I saw it in Kansas and Texas that they had a book vending machine,” Caesar said. “I said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna get that for my school.’ And so I started writing letters and begging people to support.”

When “the vending machine arrived … it couldn’t get through the door,” Caesar said.

The determined principal dug into her own pockets to retrofit the machine.

A third of the student body at Mosaic Prep live in shelters, and 95% are low-income.

“I just really believe in having — making sure all my scholars have books at home,” Caesar said.

When asked how he felt reading books, King said, “Excited!” and wanted to say “thank you” to the principal for the vending machine.