Cardozo talks books with Astoria author

Author Paul Volponi (l.) signs copies of his different novels, which teachers at Bayside's Cardozo High School included in their curriculum. Photo by Phil Corso
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Author Paul Volponi said he talks to young readers throughout the country, but especially likes visiting the students at Bayside’s Cardozo High School.

“I really enjoy all they do here,” Volponi said. “They put on a good show. It’s clear they work so hard.”

Upon entering the school’s library, at 57-00 223rd St., for his second annual visit, the Astoria writer, journalist and teacher said he was surprised to see how much time the students put into understanding his work. The walls were lined with poster-sized projects showcasing the high schoolers’ reading comprehension.

School Reading Specialist Nancy Orenz said she invited the author for a second visit to organize a simulation book chat for the students, who spent the year reading and studying two of his novels. The author fielded questions from students while at the same time working to send along his core message that anyone can write.

“By meeting an author they’ve studied, the students can actually discuss and understand different literary elements,” Orenz said. “We do this for the kids.”

Volponi is the author of 11 novels for young adults often read in high school and middle school English classes around the country.

Close to 30 freshmen and sophomores read two of Volponi’s books and converged for the author’s visit to have their questions answered. After the presentation and questions portion, the author raffled off books for students and signed copies of his work for the winners.

“I liked reading his work,” said ninth-grade student Jillian Maldonado. “His writing takes other peoples’ perspectives and brings them together, which influenced how I approach reading and writing.”

Student teacher Jennifer Peña said that by listening to an author speak about books they have already read, students could learn new ways to navigate through a novel.

“We wanted the kids to be engaged with the stories they read and relate them to their own lives,” she said.

Tenth-grader Christine Bernert read “Black and White,” the story of two friends, one black and one white, who face different outcomes from making the same mistake. She said the author wrote in such a way that made her reconsider the purpose of the craft.

“The way he wrote the book made it all very mysterious and made you think,” Bernert said. “In the end, it made me want to write more.”

And that is all Volponi said he hoped to achieve by familiarizing the students with his stories.

“I like to show the students that writing is something anyone can do. I want them to feel close to it,” Volponi said. “I want to show them how you can take things in your life and apply them to your writing.”

While taking questions on his books from students, Volponi would stop and marvel at the different angles the kids would take when interpreting his story.

“It really is interesting to hear how students bring their own lives into their interpretations of books,” he said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 10:21 am, June 14, 2012
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