NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A teacher at Metro Nashville Public Schools' Shwab Elementary School set up a fundraiser to install a book vending machine for students to earn books through good behavior that they can keep, but requested help from the community to raise the final funds.
"We are a Title I school," explained Lindsey Mayfield, an art teacher at Shwab Elementary School who started teaching at the school nearly five years ago. "A lot of our kids, like, they live in poverty. They come to school, they don't have coats, they don't have jackets, they are hungry. So, sometimes our meals are the only meals they are getting."
Needless to say, Mayfield knew food was not the only challenge her student's families were facing.
She said she first spotted the book vending machine on social media when a school in another city received one.
"I saw a couple of other schools they did it and I was like, ‘Man, I would really like to have that. It's so cool.’ I read to my kids during art class I try to find a book that is either related to their social-emotional well-being, their SEL, or it's related to my content," explained Mayfield. "It kind of goes into the function of my class and the flow. And then, it's also good for them to hear good literacy and pronunciation so that they will become a better reader."
Knowing the power of literacy, Mayfield filled out the paperwork for a book vending machine and started to work with her school to find ways to integrate it into her students' days at Shwab where a bee is the school mascot.
"We pass out these Bee Bucks, little paper money, and they get to spend them and we usually do a 'Bee Bucks Store,' [is] what we call it," said Mayfield. "And we do the Bee Bucks Store after each semester so we just had one at Christmas and we get those funds we have like legit toys like scooters and bikes, and Barbies and LOL dolls. You name it, we have it."
Students at Shwab Elementary School can earn Bee Bucks for good behavior throughout the school day with a goal of at least five bucks a day to be spent at the school store, to participate in school activities or eventually at the school's book vending machine.
"This vending machine... they're like, 'I want to buy a book.' And so you know 20 Bee Bucks, and then... we'll give them the coin and then they'll put in the machine they can pick a book," explained Mayfield.
"We're trying to find these incentives to keep the kids coming to school for attendance and doing well academically and the academics will go hand-in-hand with behavior," explained Mayfield.
After reading to kids at her school for years, she said the book vending machine seemed like a helpful tool for kids to earn books they can keep.
"When I read to the kids right here on this carpet, it just kind of stops life," she recounted. "It just kind of makes them—like they're all still in a trance, they're so like in tune with the book. It's crazy, like how well a book can really change like everything about a child the way they're sitting in their feeling and it can really like make them think about things."
With more than $4,000 left to raise as of Wednesday, Mayfield is hopeful the community will see the benefit of helping a child learn to read.
"I just think like one small little thing can really help that child go throughout the day and feel good about completing a day at school. Because I mean, a lot of kids, they have their worries at home: What am I going to eat? Where am I going to sleep? But you know, that book might be that calming place to calm all that those worries down," said Mayfield. "And this would be a providing factor for a lot of our kids to have some kind of incentive like this to just be able to have that opportunity. And that's what school is providing opportunities and matter what form they come in."
To learn more about Mayfield's mission and to donate to her book vending machine fund, click here.