Author and actress Karyn Parsons, best known for her role as Hilary Banks on the TV series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” visited Bellevue Elementary School in Atwater to share her passion for literature and encourage a love of reading for students.
Her school day visit on Sept. 1 was attended by more than 800 students in three separate assemblies.
Parsons engaged with students through discussion and interview questions, where she encouraged students to find joy in reading. She told the story about how she became interested in writing stories and becoming an author while on acting sets, and with the inspiration of her mother who was a librarian, and the encouragement of a friend who was a literary agent.
The author was also asked questions such as “What is your favorite book?” “Was it hard to get published?” and “Do you ever cry, or have overwhelming emotions, when you’re writing?”
In answer to the latter, Parson said: “If you are honest with yourself, and you are honest with your reader, and you are really invested, you feel that — whatever truth that’s in there — and then you are able to share that something real with somebody else.”
Parsons work as an author aligns with Bellevue Elementary School’s initiative to promote the benefits of reading, inspire students and emphasize the importance of representation through diverse and inclusive stories.
“This has been a wonderful experience,” said Tiffani Gong, the school’s principal. “We are kicking off our reading campaign. Having Karyn here to share her book, to share her journey, and what reading and writing has done for her career, really connects with our students. She has been sharing these things all day … and of course the fame thing helps. The kids have been buying in, asking some really thoughtful questions.
Parsons is the founder of Sweet Blackberry, a content company that tells little-known stories of Black achievement to inspire, educate and entertain children.
Her book titles include “How High the Moon,” “Flying Free: How Bessie Coleman’s Dreams Took Flight,” “Saving the Day: Garret Morgan’s Life-Changing Invention of the Traffic Signal” and “Clouds Over California.”
This is Parsons second visit to Merced County. She visited the Weaver School District in 2020 during Black History Month.