You have probably heard of James Patterson, the New York Times bestselling author. He is best-known for his crime novels, including the Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club and Michael Bennett series, as well as a number of popular series for young adults, and holds The New York Times distinction of having the most hard-cover fiction titles ever sold by a single author. His very popular books become very popular movies; he is a regular and in-demand talk show guest. Time magazine called him “the man who can’t miss” and the AARP named him one of the 50 most influential people who make our days a little brighter.
You may have also heard Patterson will receive an honorary degree and speak at Montclair State University’s 2014 Commencement ceremony. What you may not know is that he is an extremely passionate and generous advocate for literacy education. And he has put his money where his heart is. Patterson has launched any number of initiatives meant to get and keep kids reading, from his website, ReadKiddoRead.com, to his regular donations of hundreds of thousands of books to schools all over the U.S.
Patterson believes that communities should use every avenue available to promote reading across the grade levels and meet kids where they are—that is, by finding material, whether it’s a Newberry Award-winning novel, or the Sports Illustrated Almanac, that engages a child’s imagination. “The best way to get kids reading more is to give them books they’ll gobble up — and that will make them ask for another,” Patterson wrote in a recent editorial.
The writer is so committed to this cause that he and his wife Susan have established a scholarship fund that nurtures the teachers of tomorrow. With more than $1 million in scholarship money in 2013 alone, the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships support up-and-coming teachers who will help give kids the necessary foundation for lifelong reading enjoyment. Montclair State is among the 20 universities that receive scholarship support from this fund.
At Montclair State, 16 students have received the scholarships. The recipients were selected by the dean of the College of Education and Human Services, in consultation with members of the faculty, from among the most qualified of the 700 Montclair State students who were admitted to the Teacher Education program this year. They are an impressive group of smart, ambitious young adults who will make inspiring teachers and who will instill in their future students the same love of learning that they themselves demonstrate.
Katherin Pereira, a scholarship recipient who is pursing her Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education and Students with Disabilities, says that she was inspired by her high school English teachers and hopes to pay that inspiration forward.
“As an English teacher, I would like to shape my students’ views on literacy” she says. “I want them to understand the importance of being literate and motivate them to always read and write. I would hope to make literature interesting and as relevant to their individual life experiences as I possibly can. In the process, I want my students to develop critical thinking skills that will be useful throughout their lives.”