Best-selling author James Patterson just made another generous pledge to support child literacy.
On Tuesday, Patterson announced he’s giving $1.25 million to classroom libraries in 2019, according to the Associated Press. It’s his fifth contribution to the Patterson Partnership with Scholastic Book Clubs, an initiative to “get excellent children's books into the hands of every child.” The author is donating $250 each to 4,000 teachers around the US to help them purchase books.
The partnership will also distribute $500 each to 500 teachers with three years or less experience in partnership with Scholastic. The program is taking applications online until July 31, and a winner will be announced in September.
“Illiteracy—or lack of reading proficiency—is a huge and often daunting issue in this country,” Patterson said in a statement released by Scholastic. “Tackling this epidemic can be overwhelming for parents and educators alike. But we have to start somewhere.
“Getting books into the hands of children is an excellent place to start,” he said.
Another $1.25 Million for teachers!— James Patterson (@JP_Books) April 4, 2019
We will teach every child to read. Period. https://t.co/gQ7Ha4VF4M
Known for his novels, including hit series such as Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club, Patterson has been committed to child literacy throughout his career. He’s donated $7.25 million to school and classroom libraries through his partnership with Scholastic Book Clubs, launched in 2015.
The benefits of investing in child literacy are endless –– it boosts participation in the labor market, improves health and nutrition, reduces poverty, and expands life opportunities. But globally, 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills, and in many US states, more than 40% of students read below grade level, Patterson explained in his statement.
Cara Schrack, director of education for the organization Save the Children’s US programs, told Global Citizen she endorses Patterson’s book program. For many children, the school library is the only library in their community.
“It’s a great initiative,” Schrack said.
Schracks stressed the need for access to books year-round, especially before third grade, when reading skills build the foundation for academic achievement.
“Overall, when you look at children of poverty, they really need to have access to high-quality resources,” Schrack said.
Children who don’t have access to books when school is out run the risk of regressing, especially if they come from a low-socioeconomic background, Schrack explained. There are a few creative ways to provide access in the interim, including "bookmobiles" that deliver books to children in rural or urban communities, or opening school libraries a few days of the week and sending students home with books to hold them over. Without programs like this keep students from falling behind, teachers end up picking up the slack.
According to one survey, US teachers spend nearly $500 of their own money every year on school supplies. The Patterson Partnership donation will help fill the funding gap.
“My hope is that my partnership with Scholastic helps teachers fill their classroom bookshelves, and gives their students access to books that they’re excited to read — and ultimately, to foster a lifelong love of reading, as I strongly believe that better readers make better people,” he said.