The LGBTQ Writers in Schools program began its partnership with the New York City Department of Education last year. Paige Caliguiri, a librarian at Comprehensive Model School Project – M.S. 327, and her students had one of the standout visits. Her students enjoyed the experience so much that they are participating again this year. We sat down with her to talk about how her students came up with a board game based on Alexander London’s YA novel, Proxy, and how she gets kids involved in what they’re reading.

Why did you participate in the program for a second year?

My students are still talking about last year’s visit! It was such a positive experience for them, I couldn’t imagine not applying again (and I will probably continue to apply for the rest of this grant’s life!). This program gives a school and a library program with a rich culture of reading (like my own) the opportunity to bring reading to life and motivate students in a unique way.

What led you to choose Proxy by Alexander London last year and The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson this year?

Last year, I chose Proxy because I had never read it prior to this opportunity, but knew it was similar to books that were popular and circulated frequently in the library. The book basically “sold” itself to the students as I asked if they were interested in participating in the book club. These were also mostly middle-schoolers.  This year, I wanted to choose The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson because it’s geared more toward high-schoolers and was looking to have a different author experience entirely.​

Your students were so wonderful last year! Could talk a little bit about the board game they created and how that idea came into being?

It actually happened quite naturally–during one of our book discussions, one of the kids just said, “I can imagine this as a game!” and the conversation kind of took off from there. I thought it would be cool to have them design a board game to play with Alex, as the plot and setting he created was so descriptive, and they could have the freedom to make it come alive like they saw it in their minds. This really encouraged them not only to be creative but also dive deep into the book in a way that differed from standard book club conversation.

Proxy Board Game

Students from CMSP – MS 327 showing off their board game based on the YA novel, ‘Proxy’

What did you and your students take away from your visit with Alexander London and how will that help you prepare for the visit with Naomi Jackson?

To be honest, my students and I did not know what to expect last year–it was our first intimate author experience. This resulted in a more informal meeting and discussion leading up to the visit, and it really worked when Alex came because he was just a natural with the kids (must be because in a past life he was a librarian!) and they just took to him immediately. He was extremely prepared and this all just made for a great experience. For this year, I am going to structure our discussions more so the students are a little more prepared because I have an idea of what to expect, but also try to maintain the organic flow we had going last year.

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