“A little bit surreal:” Alabaster native partners with student to publish first book

Published 12:53 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer

Alabaster native Ashlee Elliott recently partnered with a Chelsea High School student illustrator to publish a book teaching “The ABCs of Computer Science.”

Elliott, an instructional technology coach for Shelby County Schools, self-published a book entitled, “The ABCs of Computer Science” on July 10 to better help students learn about terms in the field of computer science.

“From the very beginning, I’ve always wanted to publish a children’s book,” Elliott said. “It became clear to me that teachers were really in need of understanding the vocabulary of computer science and not just for them to understand it but putting it in an easy way for their students to understand.”

After recognizing a need, Elliott went to work exploring Alabama’s digital literacy and computer science standards and began to pick out key words for students to understand in order to master the standard.

“We are now integrating computer science into all parts of learning,” Elliott said. “Our world is moving in such a direction that technology is infused into everything we do. So, we are trying to prepare our students for careers that do not even exist yet.”

In order to bring the publication to life, Elliott knew she would need illustrations to captivate the attention of readers and assist with explaining the material.

“I can’t draw to save my life,” Elliott said. “I thought, ‘You know what, let me pull in a student illustrator who’s aspiring to do things like this in their life.’”

After holding a contest, Chelsea High School senior Jayla Coleman was chosen to be the illustrator for the book.

“I knew the vision of what I wanted my book to look like, and so, that’s when I decided that Jayla was the best fit,” Elliott said.

Coleman created two mascot characters, Ada and Charlie, for the book in order to illustrate the selected terms and to connect with the audience.

“They’re adorable,” Elliott said. “The characters are the best part of the book.”

Elliott and Coleman collaborated on putting together the book over a seven-month period.

“It was kind of beautiful how she and I did rely on one another’s skills,” Elliott said. “I solely relied on her to draw, and she relied on me to come up with those real-life connections that could be made to computer science.”

After spending time putting the book together, they went through Kindle Direct Publishing to self-publish the work.

After finally being done with the process, Elliott commented on the feeling of finally holding the physical culmination of all their efforts in her hands.

“It’s been a little bit surreal,” she said. “It was a very emotional moment for Jayla.”

After being finally done, Elliott searched for a way to express her gratitude to Coleman for her work on the project.

“I racked my brain on what could I give Jayla as a token for the work she put into this project,” Elliott said. “She was so dedicated, so I had a company actually make 16-inch stuffed animal of Ada. It was just an incredible moment because it was a nine-month journey getting to this point.”

Now with the book officially published, Elliott and Coleman have sold 100 copies in the first week.

Proceeds from the book go toward funding a computer science grant from the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation.

“I just really want to spotlight our school district, our student illustrator and the movement that we’re taking to ensure our students know the computer science world and are prepared for future jobs that aren’t even created yet,” she said.

Elliott said she was absolutely happy that she went through the process of creating “The ABCs of Computer Science” and shared that this project will not be the last.

“Jayla and I have had small talks of the next book that we possibly want to collaborate on,” she said.” Now that we have Charlie and Ada, we’re so in love with them. And we want to not stop at this point, we want to continue forward. There’s not really any set-in-stone plans, but I’ve already start thinking about the next book manuscript and the next journey or adventure Charlie or Ada are going to go on.”

A paperback of “The ABCs of Computer Science” can be found online for purchasing on Amazon.com.