James Patterson announces beneficiaries

James Patterson
Author James Patterson

Best-selling author and reading advocate James Patterson has announced the recipients of his cash injection to help get children reading.

While touring Australia in May, Patterson announced plans to donate a total of $100,000 to bookstores throughout New Zealand and Australia, with individual story able to request up to $5000 each to spend on initiatives to get children reading.

Author James PattersonHe announced the recipients yesterday after a lengthy judging process.

“I have been delighted by  people have applied for the grants and the calibre of the applications,” Patterson says. “We have worked to identify bookshops for whom this money may make a real difference and for whom getting children reading is a real passion.”

Any independent bookshop with a dedicated children’s book section was eligible for a grant of up to $5000 and hundreds of bookshops throughout New Zealand and Australia applied for the grant, with many asking for the maximum amount available.

The plans requests ranged from setting up reading programmes for children in need to hosting community literary festivals, and some were simply looking to freshen up and expand their existing section for children.

Hedleys Bookshop in Masterton will use their grant to employ a dynamic Children’s Book Ambassador to connect with children throughout the community via their local school. Hedleys’ Book Ambassador will create opportunities for children to become engaged with books through initiatives such as book groups, student-led newsletters and appointing young readers as library monitors.

Another bookshop receiving a grant is Wardini Books in Havelock North. To celebrate the achievements of young readers, the store will instigate a trading card scheme where youngsters will be with trading cards for a variety of events, including finishing their first chapter book, completing a series, writing a book review or attending a book club.

Paper Plus Northlands and The Children’s Bookshop in Wellington will also be recipients of a James Patterson grant.

Booksellers New Zealand chief executive Lincoln Gould was impressed by both the donation made by Patterson and by the response from local bookstores.

“It is fantastic to see how New Zealand bookstores have reacted to this wonderfully generous offer by James Patterson with creative plans that can only encourage children to read. It is inspiring to see one of the oldest bookselling families in the country, Hedleys in Masterton, and one of the newest, the Wards from Wardini Books in Havelock North, among the winners. This alone demonstrates that bookshops in New Zealand are not only well entrenched in this country but are sustainable into the future, playing a vital role in reading development.”

Author James PattersonResearch shows that the number of books in the family home directly impacts a child’s reading level – by as much as three years.

A 2014 study across 42 countries and 200,000 cases (Scholarly Culture and Academic Performance in 42 Nations, this research, which was co-authored by Dr Joanna Sikora from Australian National University and two others) found that the number of books in the family home dramatically impacts reading ability.

The study shows having a home library enhances academic performance for all children. The improvement was irrespective of the parent’s own education, which has massive implications.

Even if a parent is illiterate, just having a children’s book in the home helps. Its very physicality is an invitation to pick it up and turn the pages.

‘This initiative shines a light on literacy. It prompts us to ask: what do we want our future to be and how do we get there?’ says Patterson.

Reading skills in New Zealand have dropped significantly since 2009, according to the most recent (2012) OECD report on literacy across 65 countries and half a million children.  However, our average achievement remains above the OECD average.

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