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Living Book Project Brings Communities Together at SBU

Living book project
High school students perform a play written by Lauren Kaushansky based on the themes in The Complete Persepolis.

The Living Book Project returns to Stony Brook University on March 27, bringing together faculty with high school teachers and more than 250 students from several districts across Suffolk County. The annual event revolves around themes from a non-fiction book that explores the human condition and comes to life through a day of music, movement, art, discussion, theatrical performances and interactive workshops.

Lauren Kaushansky, a lecturer in Stony Brook’s Professional Education Program and Department of History, and Elizabeth Kelso, an English teacher at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, New York, are co-founders of the Living Book Project, which made its debut in 2013. Last year’s event centered on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel The Complete Persepolis, which recounts the author’s life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The work was so well received by students and teachers that Kaushansky and Kelso are featuring it again at this year’s event in the Charles B. Wang Center.

The goal of the Living Book Project is to promote literacy, critical thinking and a sense of community among high school students who represent “the rich collection of people living across Long Island,” said Kaushansky. “It’s all about bringing communities together.”

“University faculty, community members and public school teachers provide interdisciplinary experiences, transforming story into advocacy, conversation, art, movement and interactive workshops,” said Kelso.

The Living Book Project is an opportunity to foster discussion and give students an interactive experience. Students are randomly placed into workshops with their peers from other schools to explore cultural topics and themes from the book. Stony Brook faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students from various departments lead the workshops and participate throughout the day.

“A new year brings in new faculty, SBU students, high schools and students,” Kelso said. “The collaboration is a rich example of ways the University and community can enrich the lives of our larger communities.”

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