ANSON COUNTY, N.C. —  A new, free book vending machine is coming to Anson County to increase access to books for kids.

What You Need To Know

  • Anson County is receiving a $10,000 grant from the KFC Foundation for a book vending machine
  • The machine will sit in the local health department, allowing children to take a book of their choice home with them
  • Smart Start nonprofits across the state focus on literacy and early childhood education for kids up to 5 years old 

Anson County Partnership for Children is the county's resource for North Carolina's Smart Start Initiative. Each one of the state's 100 counties have access to a nonprofit like this one, advancing early childhood education for kids up to 5 years old. 

Anson County Partnership for Children has been granted $10,000 from the KFC Foundation to purchase and stock a book vending machine that will sit in the waiting room of the local health department. 

Executive Director of the Anson County Partnership for Children, Carolina Goins says while parents wait for services in the health department, children will be given a free token to drop in the machine, allowing them to select a book to take home with them.

"Just having a small personal library will benefit a child up to 3 years," Goins said. "It also teaches social-emotional skills, so they relate to the characters in the book, and they learn how to deal with problems."

Goins says Smart Start increased the quality and access to early childhood education through literacy programs like this one and Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Through the initiative, Anson County also offers professional development opportunities and training, family support and a free Pre-K program for 150 kids every year.

The statewide Smart Start Initiative started in 1993. Anson County established its center in 1996. Goins has been in her role for nine years, and has seen how attention to early childhood education has changed over time.

"Child care was seen as babysitting, so not only are we trying to professionalize the workforce and help people understand the importance of learning, but we're trying to offer that high-quality access across the community," Goins said. 

North Carolina child care facilities are rated from a one to five star scale, with five stars being the highest level. A report from the N.C. General Assembly on the Smart Start Initiative shows from 2001 to 2021, the number of children in four and five star programs increased from 33% to 72%. The percentage of students in one and two star programs decreased from 46% to 4% in the same timeframe.

Goins says whether children are learning at home or in child care facilities, the first five years of a child's life are the most important for learning and development. 

Goins says the grant from the KFC Foundation is special because many KFC workers in the community have sent their children to Anson County Partnership for Children programs through the years.