You’ve got to hand it to best-selling author James Patterson: he is doing his part to get young people to read. He’d already put $1.5 million into student scholarships and essay competitions, then set aside $1 million to help independent bookstores.
Now he is bankrolling the 2-million-hits-per-month website ReadKiddoRead.com, which profiles high-interest books. Asked about what’s at stake, Patterson minces no words: “I’m here to save lives.”
Strong words. But Patterson should know: he is a one-man publishing empire, author of youth and young adult classics such as Maximum Ride, Alex Cross and, most recently, Treasure Hunters and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. He knows his audience — and is alarmed. “There are…millions of kids in this country who’ve never read a book they like,” he told Kirkus magazine.
Patterson knows what dangers loom for those who hate to read: “[I]t’s going to be hellish…to get through high school, and…[get] jobs and a life that has some satisfaction.”
True that. In “Why Johnny Can’t Write, and Why Employers Are Mad” (online 11/11/13), NBC weighed in on this. People who read widely tend to become good writers and speakers. However, the article says, U.S. companies have trouble finding young employees who communicate well. “With Gen X and Gen Y, [it is] because everything is shorthand and text,” says one expert.
Patterson does not want that to happen to the next generation. “You wouldn’t knowingly send your child out with a handicap,” he notes, “but that’s what you’re doing when you don’t encourage them to read.”
Not just ereaders, either: “[T]hat’s not taking the place of having someone in a bookstore or a library who can recommend good books.”
Here at the Niles Public Library, we see the same pitfalls of not reading — but also the huge benefits of finding books. Our “Guys Read”* outreach, aimed at boy “reluctant readers,” tries to do what Patterson’s website tries to do: alert students to the dazzling variety of great books crammed onto shelves and into audiobooks, Playaways, and ebooks.
For anyone who wants help connecting books and would-be readers, we have a guide called “The ‘I Dare You Not to Find a Book You Like’ Reading List for Guys.” It is available as a booklet in KidSpace (formerly Youth Services) and, soon, online.
Dragons? Wizards? Sci-fi? Graphic novels? Dystopian future? Fantasy? Funny? Gritty? Realistic fiction?… It’s all here: the antidote for today’s curse of non-reading.
*Credit for the name “Guys Read,” a sort of crowd-sourced literary initiative, goes to kids’ author Jon Scieszka.