NEW YORK--Three months ago, James Patterson and Scholastic Reading Club pledged to donate $1.5 million to school libraries across the country. They have already received more than 28,000 applications for funding grants. Because of the overwhelming number of requests for books and additional classroom resources made on behalf of school libraries, James Patterson will increase his contribution by another $250,000, bringing his total donation to $1.75 million.
In addition, he will also distribute the first round of funds to school libraries: $500,000 to 127 individual schools, with grants that range from $1,000 to $10,000 per school. Scholastic Reading Club will match each dollar with bonus points that allow teachers to buy materials, including books, for their classrooms.
"With nearly half the population currently reading at or below the basic level, the United States is truly in the middle of a crisis," Patterson says, who recently launched the children's book imprint jimmy patterson, aimed at making books available to kids through teacher scholarships, bookstore funding, school library support and book donations. "I've now read over a thousand letters from school librarians, teachers, and parents about the lack of resources at our country's schools. How will children make it to high school without access to books? This is a huge problem—and we have to take action. I hope that education will become a major topic on Capitol Hill and in the upcoming presidential debates."
With the school library initiative, Patterson's mandate was to make the application process as simple as possible for librarians. The online application poses a single question: "What would your school library do with $1,000 to $10,000?" The most prevalent request on behalf of schools concerned the dire need for funding. Again and again, teachers, librarians, and principals wrote about budget cuts and a dearth of state funding that have left their schools without books, shelves, materials, and, in many cases, librarians.
"We've been deluged with an enormous number of requests for support from across the country," Judy Newman, President of Scholastic Reading Club, said. "More than anything else, school libraries are desperate for books to fill their shelves. James Patterson's generosity underscores a great need, and thanks to him, many children will be welcomed back to school with the books they need to discover a love of reading."
According to Teresa Israel, school librarian at P.S. 62, a large Title I school in the Richmond Hill section of Queens, NY, "Approximately 86 percent of our students are living in poverty. Many of our families do not have the money to purchase books, and our local public library is not in close proximity to our school. Our school library must be our students' window to the world. Unfortunately, our books have an average copyright date of 2002, and the number of titles in our library is woefully inadequate."
The full list of schools receiving grants in the first round, which includes P.S. 62, is attached and available online at www.scholastic.com/pattersonpartnership. The remaining $1.25 million will be given away in stages through 2015. All funds are being personally donated by James Patterson.
While there is no obligation for schools to report how the grants are used or the results associated with their use, Patterson and Scholastic hope that teachers, students, librarians, parents, and principals will share stories of how the money encourages change in their communities and gets more kids reading.
Beyond his work with Scholastic, Patterson also teaches writing for the San Francisco-based company MasterClass. Founded by David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen, MasterClass makes it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to learn through immersive online classes from some of the world's most esteemed authors, actors, performers, athletes and more. Patterson’s class involves 22 video lessons, which cover writing-related topics like creating characters, editing and getting published.