NEW YORK (AP) — Having handed out more than $1 million to help independent bookstores, James Patterson is now sharing his wealth with some other vital, but often struggling institutions: School libraries.
The best-selling author announced Monday that he was donating $1.25 million through a grant program administered with Scholastic Reading Club, a division of Scholastic, Inc. Libraries or supporters of libraries can seek donations $1,000 to $10,000. Scholastic will match each donation with "Bonus Points" that can be used to purchase classroom materials. According to Patterson, requests can be for anything from fixing a computer system to paying for a school reading project.
"James Patterson is such a champion of books and reading for all children. We are thrilled to work with him to support school libraries, which are essential for thriving school communities," Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Reading Club, said in a statement.
Patterson, who has strong memories of his weekly visits to libraries as a child, told the Associated Press during a recent interview that he wanted to "shine a light" on the problem of public schools with no libraries or underfunded libraries. In California, for instance there was just one certified school librarian for every 7,784 students in 2012-13. Chicago and Philadelphia are among the other cities that have sharply cut library staffing. More than 8,000 public schools nationwide did not have libraries in 2011-12, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
"A lot of schools also don't have as many books as they should have," said Patterson, adding that libraries were especially important for kids in households without books. "There's a myth out there among some people that the kids are reading only digital books now. They're not."
The program will begin with a $250,000 donation from Patterson, with the remaining $1 million to be distributed throughout the year and additional funding likely in the future,
It's the latest work of philanthropy for Patterson, an advocate of literacy for more than a decade through such projects as Read, Kiddo, Read and the James Patterson PageTurner Awards, which offers cash prizes to individuals who helped promote and encourage reading. In 2013, he earned the gratitude of the independent bookselling community by launching a system of grants similar to what he is doing now for libraries
Patterson's interest in reading begins at home. He remembers pushing his then-8-year-old son Jack to like books, assigning him a reading list one summer and watching him advance so well that he managed a perfect score on his English SAT exam
"I'm the most emotional and passionate about getting kids reading in late elementary and early middle school reading because if they don't how are they going to get through high school?" he said.
"We just want to keep doing something useful, pushing the rock up the hill. It's a big rock, a big hill.
Applications for library grants can be found at www.scholastic.com/pattersonpartnership