Fifth and sixth grade students at Bonneville Elementary School were able to “meet” children’s book author, Barbara Kerley, thanks to the interactive tool Skype. On November 28, the students gathered in the school library to visit “face-to-face” with the author who was more than 2,000 miles away in McKinleyville, California.
Skype is a service that allows audio-visual communication via webcam between two locations. The program enables individuals to chat and see one another using a phone, television, computer or other mobile device.
The meeting was arranged by Erin Staples, Bonneville Media Specialist, who met Kerley when she was a student at Northeastern State University. An accomplished writer, Kerley has published 11 books, including her debut, Greetings From Planet Earth, and the 2002 Caldecott Honors Book and American Library Association Notable Book, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.
During the Skype session, Kerley gave students a tour of her office and introduced them to her dog, Seamus. She pointed out her stationary bicycle that she enjoys riding while reading and let them see her desk where she writes.
“You see that stack of papers on my desk?,” Kerley asked. “Well, that's the new novel I’m working on. (So far) I have 174 pages.”
The office tour continued with Kerley showing students a bulletin board covered with notes she plans to incorporate into her stories. Referencing writing as a “process,” the author held up a preliminary “advanced reader copy” of her current work in progress, held together only by staples.
Following the tour, students were given the opportunity to ask Kerley questions. Questions ranged from “How long does it take to finish a book?” to “How many books do you plan to write?”.
In response to a question from one student, Kerely said that as a child growing up, she wanted to become an actress. She noted that that today she sees acting and writing as “the same thing,” because it is about “telling stories."
Staples has plans to set up more Skype sessions for the students at Bonneville. “It’s free, and a great way for us to get different avenues into the classroom without having to leave and pay extra money."