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March 19, 2015

This month, James Patterson made a couple of major announcements --- he's donating 100,000 copies of his newest book, PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO, to schools and youth programs around the country, and he's teaming up with Scholastic to donate $1.25 million in grants to school libraries. 

We asked James to tell us more about his new book, why he thinks that school libraries are so important and what influence his young readers have on the content of his books. Read his answers, below, and apply here to nominate your school library to receive a grant!

First, he's partnering with Scholastic to donate $1.25 million in grants to school libraries around the country. Second, he's donating 100,000 copies of his newest book, PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO, to under-resourced schools and youth programs around the United States. You just announced that you will donate $1.25 million dollars to school libraries this year, which is amazing! Why school libraries, and will the opportunity be available to public elementary, middle and high schools?

James Patterson:Unfortunately, with budget cuts, school libraries are often the first to go. A lot of schools don’t have as many books as they should have.   These donations help the libraries and they lift morale. Most importantly, they shine a light on a much larger problem. Any school in the U.S. that serves students from Pre-K through 12th grade is eligible.

KRC: You have a website called “ReadKiddoRead”. Can you tell us more about it? Why did you start it? Did this initiative with public schools come out of the feedback you heard from readers on “ReadKiddoRead”?

JP:ReadKiddoRead is a project that’s really close to my heart.  We created this resource to help parents, teachers and librarians find books that are really going to get kids excited about reading. So, we’ve got 600 reviews for all different age groups but we also have book lists, book giveaways and resources for educators. It’s really a great, easy site for picking out kids’ books and if you haven’t visited, it’s worth checking out. The library initiative came out of lots of conversations that I’ve had with librarians and educators and parents. I’ve thought a lot about what I can do to help.

KRC: Besides creating access to books, what else do you think we need to do to keep books and reading a number one priority in this country?

JP:Well, the work of getting kids reading starts at home. My mother was a teacher so I grew up around books and she really encouraged me. I always tell parents: It’s not the teacher’s job to get your kids reading, it’s your job.

KRC: Were you a big reader when you were growing up? Did you use your school library a lot? What do you remember about your school library and school librarians?

JP: Growing up, I was a good student but wasn’t as passionate about reading as I am now.  Unfortunately, our grade school had no library. But, my mother was a teacher at our school and she took my sister and me to the Newburgh town library every Saturday. That was a real treat.

KRC: Your series Middle School focuses on, well, middle school! Why did you decide to focus on that particular age group with that series?

JP: I’m really passionate about getting kids reading.  Middle school is when you need to get to them.  At that point, they’ll still listen to you.  Middle School is written for them. If these kids aren’t competent readers, they’re going to have a really hard time getting through high school. I want to make sure that they’ll be readers for life.

KRC: PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO comes out on March 16th! What was your favorite scene to write in that book? Does your superhero read?

JP: Well, the main character Kenny Wright has a superhero alter ego, Stainlezz Steel.  So, it was fun to write the scenes where Kenny is tapping into that secret identity. And Kenny loves reading --- his house is full of books!

KRC: Are kids in contact with you and do their comments and feedback shape your storytelling?

JP: I’ve received thousands of letters from kids of all ages telling me how much they enjoyed theMaximum Ride or Middle School series.  It means a lot to me to hear from fans. The feedback I get from kids definitely has an impact on the stories that I want to tell.  I wrote the character of Kenny Wright after many visits to schools where African American students would ask, “When are you going to write a book about us?” 

James Patterson’s activism in children’s literacy and philanthropy has made him a leading voice in the conversation about book culture in the United States. He has sold 300 million books worldwide and has had more New York Times bestsellers than any other writer ever, according to Guinness World Records. He also has more #1 New York Times–bestselling books for children than any other living author. He is the international bestselling author of the highly praised Middle SchoolI FunnyMaximum Ride, Witch & Wizard and Alex Cross series. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.