Students streaming into the media center at Adamsville Elementary were greeted by Atlanta children’s book author Evelyn Coleman — and a big screen. Instead of reading to the children from her various works, Coleman let noted actor James Earl Jones do the talking, through the Web site Storyline Online, as he read To Be a Drum. (A handful of students instantly recognized the story, illustrated by the great Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson. Using the large video screen, Coleman noted, allowed children to appreciate Robinson’s drawings.
Afterwward, Coleman inspired the students with an overview of her career, which included stints as a psychotherapist and martial artist before she settled on writing. “My father taught me when I was young that you need to learn to read, and to speak correct English — otherwise, people won’t know what you want!” she told students. “Now, education doesn’t always mean school, but everyone should learn about the people around them, and the world around them. Coleman later discussed her recent historical work, Freedom Train, based on the journey of the famous train through the 1940s-era Deep South. She also recounted such historical African-American figures as the great singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield and Civil War spy Mary Elizabeth Browser.
Students hung on every word. “I like books, and I think I’ve read To Be a Drum,” said fifth-grader Jakobi Horn. “Reading helps me because I know how important it is to read and it helps me learn new things. I read a couple hours a day, especially scary stories and mysteries, like Killer’s Kiss by R.L. Stine. I want to go to college, so I know I need to be a better reader because that way I can learn as much as possible, to get the education I need.”
Coleman’s appearance was part of a partnership between Adamsville Elementary and Children’s Literature for Children, an Atlanta-based non-profit dedicated to bringing together children and books. Founder Kemie Nix and Executive Director Debbie D. Green brought Coleman to school at the invitation of Adamsville Media Specialist Megann Williams. Williams also has arranged for visits from children’s author Ashley Bryan.