One by one, second grade students at Sandy Hook Elementary School stood up to ask a smiling face on the screen before them in the school's library a question via Skype, an online communication program.
The two Skype sessions held for second grade students on Thursday, April 26, were a first for author Tomie dePaola, according to Sandy Hook School library/media specialist Yvonne Cech. It was also a first for the elementary school, and possibly, the school district.
Mr dePaola lives in New Hampshire, and installed Skype on his computer to communicate with the Sandy Hook School second grade students.
"This can be a wonderful way to get authors in front of students in the future," said Ms Cech before the event.
Mr dePaola, according to his website www.tomie.com, has written and/or illustrated nearly 250 books, including Strega Nona, The Art Lesson, and Christmas Remembered.
Two Skype sessions were held on Tuesday to allow all second grade students at Sandy Hook School the chance to speak with Mr dePaola, and before those sessions were held, Ms Cech said a “technology trial” took place to make sure everything was set to go.
While in library class for the weeks leading up the event, Ms Cech said students developed the questions and she later sorted and combined the questions that students were able to ask Ms dePaola during the Skype sessions.
The students asked a range of questions during the second Skype session, and learned that Mr dePaola’s next book is expected out in the fall and will be new Strega Nona book. They also learned that the first book he ever wrote was a Christmas gift for his younger sister when he was in high school.
Where does Mr dePaola get ideas for his stories? In the shower, he said.
“I am very clean, I want you to know,” said Mr dePaola.
Mr dePaola also said he likes to write books inspired by his own childhood, and when he is not writing he enjoys, watching movies, cooking, and reading.
One highlight for the second group of Skypers on Thursday was when Mr dePaola’s dog Brontë was called into view of the screen.
Following the Skype sessions, Ms Cech said the students were thrilled.
“Tomie dePaola had such a great screen presence, was so animated, and interacted so directly with the students that the students felt as if he were in the room with them,” said Ms Cech.
Parents told Ms Cech, she said, that their students came home “bubbling with excitement.”
“It made a great impact on the students,” Ms Cech said. “This is an author that they have grown up with. His books relate so well to children in this age group. Many of our classes do author studies on him. I think the additional enthusiasm on the part of the students was because they were so familiar with his work.”
Ms Cech also said it is always inspirational for students to interact with an author or illustrator.
“Having the ability to use this method will allow us to bring more authors/illustrators to our students more often and it will be far less expensive. I can envision doing this for the entire school in the future,” said Ms Cech.
Before the Skype sessions were held, Ms Cech said Sandy Hook School also worked with Morgan Book Store in New London, N.H., to order autographed books by Ms dePaola. The students who purchased the autographed books, she said, were given those books after the Skype session.