© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Best-Selling Author James Patterson To Award $1.75 Million In Literary Grants


Over the years, James Patterson has gone from advertising executive to best-selling author and lately to advocate of literacy and reading, through scholarships and grants to school libraries. Today, to celebrate the season, Patterson is announcing more grants and also holiday bonuses for independent bookstore employees around the United States. NPR's Lynn Neary has more.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: James Patterson's passion for promoting literacy began at home. When his son was younger, he was a reluctant reader. Patterson and his wife worked hard to help him. And in the process, Patterson realized he could do more.

JAMES PATTERSON: I can't do anything about global warming. I can't do anything about a better system for drugs or immigration, whatever. But I can help kids learn how to read. And that will save lives.

NEARY: Patterson has donated hundreds of thousands of books and millions of dollars to promote reading. And last month, he was honored for his work at the National Book Awards. This year, in partnership with Scholastic, he's giving $1.75 million to school libraries. Patterson says the need is so great they got almost 28,000 entries in 10 days.

PATTERSON: A lot of times it was the same thing over and over and over again. We haven't had a budget to buy books for five years. We haven't had a budget for eight years. Or we have a library and no librarian. Or we have a library room and no books.

NEARY: Hershey Elementary School in Pennsylvania has 1,000 students in grades two through five. And librarian Sallyann Talley says a lot of them want to read the same books. The school was awarded $7,500 to buy multiple copies of the most popular books.

SALLYANN TALLEY: You really need to have the books that are going to grab the kids' interest and pull them into reading. And I think they might lose interest if they have to wait a very long time before they can get their hands on the books that they are desiring to read.

NEARY: In addition to school libraries, one of Patterson's pet projects is independent bookstores. He's already given a $1 million in grants to indie booksellers. Now he's giving $250,000 in holiday bonuses to store employees.


ANTON BOGOMAZOV: Politics & Prose. We may have a copy. Do you mind holding while I check?

NEARY: Politics & Prose is a well-loved bookstore in the nation's capital. Anton Bogomazov works behind the scenes on author events. He learned he had gotten a bonus through an email.

BOGOMAZOV: I saw the message, and I was just floored, to be honest. I was very surprised.

NEARY: And avid reader who's always loved books, Bogomazov has an idea what he might spend his bonus on.

BOGOMAZOV: I have a small child, so some of the bonus will definitely go towards nice Christmas presents - probably some books (laughter).

NEARY: Stephen Sparks of Green Apple Books in San Francisco hopes to use some of his bonus to buy gift certificates at his store for kids in need. Sparks says finding out about new books is one of the best parts of his job.

STEPHEN SPARKS: Digging around and finding exciting authors you haven't read or new authors - that's that joy of discovery. And I think all of us in the bookselling side of things enjoy that and enjoy translating that excitement to our customers.

NEARY: In New York, Kevin Cassem of McNally Jackson bookstore moonlights as a bartender to support himself. Cassem is happy about the bonus. But he says everyone at his bookstore deserves such recognition.

KEVIN CASSEM: I have to say that the people I work with at McNally are all incredible, brilliant. Together, they buy books that are interesting and engaging, and they get people to read these texts. So I feel really blessed and honored that this came my way. But at the same time, I'm also like, these other folks I work with are really amazing.

NEARY: And the benefactor of all this goodwill? Well, James Patterson says there may come a time when we do everything on computers. But right now, we still need bookstores. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.