“I’m the most emotional and passionate about getting kids reading in late elementary and early middle school because if they don’t, how are they going to get through high school?”
Anyone who’s passionate and emotional about putting books in the hands of kids has my vote — and James Patterson is about to become the patron saint of school libraries. He’s decided to donate $1.25 million to libraries all over the country to help boost their ability to encourage kids to read.
Before he became the best-selling author of the “Alex Cross” series Patterson wasn’t exactly an avid reader himself. In fact, it wasn’t until he was in his early 20s and working the night shift at a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts that he discovered his love for reading, which helped jump start his writing career.
Today, he’s racked up more New York Times best sellers than any other writer, according to Guinness World Records, and he’s become a powerful advocate for books and fostering the love of reading. After donating $1 million to independent bookstores last year, he’s planning to give grants from $1,000 to $10,000 in 2015 to help school libraries acquire books and other materials. To launch the program, he’s teamed up with the Scholastic Reading Club, which has a network of 62,000 schools and 800,000 teachers.
James spent his school years without a school library, but fondly remembers his weekly visits to public libraries as a kid and hopes to spotlight the problem of public schools with no libraries or under-funded libraries. No wonder! This blew my socks off: In California, there is just one certified school librarian for every 7,800 hundred kids. And in major cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, library staffs have suffered steep cuts. More than 8,000 public schools nationwide did not have libraries in 2012, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Hard to believe we’re talking about America, isn’t it?
“We can’t do much as individuals about global warming or the health care situation,” says James, “but we can really help literacy in our homes and locally. We can volunteer, we can give books to the school library. So, I’d like to shine a light on the problem… We just want to keep doing something useful, pushing the rock up the hill. It’s a big rock, a big hill.” Bravo, James, write on!