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US thriller writer James Patterson, whose latest novel The President is Missing, co-authored with former president Bill Clinton, is riding high in the bestseller lists, is donating £50,000 to cash-starved school libraries in the UK. It is the latest act of philanthropy from an author who has reinvented himself in the last five years and who is now as famous for his charitable giving as he is for his writing.
The money is being donated through a new scheme established by Scholastic Book Clubs. Scholastic will make £25,000 available to UK schools and teachers in the autumn term and another £25,000 in the spring term as part of Patterson’s Big Book Giveaway.
Patterson said: “Libraries are at the heart of every school, and I’m thrilled to be partnering with Scholastic to continue to underscore both the need to sustain them, and the vital role that school libraries, librarians and teachers play in transforming lives and fostering a love for learning. I can’t stress enough how important books and reading are to a child’s development – better readers make better people and ultimately better citizens.”
In 2015 he partnered with the same publisher to donate $250,000 to American school libraries, and in 2013 he pledged $1m to help save independent bookstores in the US. The following year he made £250,000 available for UK independents.
Between 2014 and 2016, he donated more than £500,000 to independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. In particular, Patterson wanted the money to be used to encourage children to read and only bookshops with a dedicated children’s book section were eligible to apply for grants between £250 and £5,000.
The then president of the UK Booksellers Association Rosamund de la Hey, said: “I think it’s fair to say that no author has done more to support the cause of independent booksellers than James Patterson. James’ support and faith in us goes way beyond the financial. He has given us the courage to try new ideas, to drive sales and put books into the hands of our favourite customers, children, in ever greater numbers. There is a wonderful collaborative spirit between indie booksellers. James’ huge generosity tapped into this and gave us the energy, courage and confidence to get these many and various projects off the ground and to help us shout ever louder about how much we love children’s books.”
In the US, as a result of his philanthropy, Patterson received the National Book Foundation’s (NBF) Literarian Award in 2015 for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community in recognition of his “contributions to the vitality of American literary culture”. NBF executive director Harold Augenbraum said Patterson’s “dedication to the expansion of reading is closer to a crusade than an avocation. Its fervour seems to increase with each passing year”.
As a result of his charitable giving, Patterson and fellow novelist Ann Patchett were made the inaugural ambassadors for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation in the US in 2016. It will be interesting to see what future honours are bestowed upon him in years to come.