OAKLAND -- Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Chabon is doing an Oct. 2 evening talk to benefit Park Day School, a small progressive private school nestled in a lush North Oakland campus not far from the fictional setting of his own most recent novel, "Telegraph Avenue."

Chabon, who has had three children attend the school, said it was Park Day School's child-centered stance and small classroom size that interested him and his wife, writer Ayelet Waldman, in sending their children there.

"We were attracted to the whole progressive school model," he said.

In this model, project-based learning is favored over memorization and children take a more direct role in creating their own learning experience. This was a contrast, Chabon said, to his own more traditional education.

"It's much more about allowing kids to sort of explore subjects at their own pace," he said.

Chabon also credits Head of School Tom Little with inspiring him to join the school community.

"He's an amazing educator," he said.

Park Day School was founded in 1976 and moved to its current North Oakland location in 1993. It has around 300 students in preschool through eighth grade. It's not the first time Chabon or Waldman have done a talk for the school.

Event coordinator Cathy Shields said the talks benefit Park Day's financial assistance program, which helps 48 percent of families enrolled.

"This is so important to the school's commitment to sustaining an economically diverse community," Shields said.


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Chabon is one of the country's top novelists. His debut novel was the "Mysteries of Pittsburgh," published in 1988, followed by "Wonder Boys," "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," "Summerland," "Gentlemen of the Road" and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," for which he received the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Zach Wyner, a creative writing teacher in the aftercare program at Park Day School, will interview Chabon. Chabon will talk about parenting and his newest book, "Telegraph Avenue."

"Most of the action takes place within three blocks of Park Day School," Chabon said.

The novel follows two childhood friends as adults and centers on a record store in Temescal.

The talk will be at the 328-seat, historic 1910 Julia Morgan theater, and Shields hopes the wider community will be interested.

Chabon said he was happy to help the school, which has been respectful in not asking too much of its more famous community members. And he's happy to help a school that he finds a stimulating and beautiful spot for children.

IF YOU GO
What: Conversation and Q&A with Michael Chabon to benefit Park Day School's academic and financial assistance programs.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 2
Where: Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave., Berkeley
Tickets: $24 in advance, $20 for students at www.parkdayschool.org or 510-653-0317, ext. 103