Friday, February 6, 2009

James Patterson’s Gets Kids Hooked on Reading

School Library Journal, 1/26/2009

James Patterson knows it’s not easy getting kids excited about reading. So a few years ago when he noticed that his 10-year-old son Jack was lukewarm toward books, the best-selling author decided to do something about it. First, he started writing books for kids. And more recently, he launched a new Web site devoted to promoting a love of reading.

"Before then, I'd always written books just for grown-ups," writes Patterson on "In fact, one of my proudest moments as a writer was when I passed [Jack my] manuscript of The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (Little, Brown, 2008). Not only did he like it, he told me it was his favorite."

Patterson’s is a user-friendly site designed to help parents, teachers, librarians, and other adults find books that kids of all ages will enjoy. For example, Mo Willems’s Knuffle Bunny (Hyperion, 2004) and Kevin Henkes’s Kitten’s First Full Moon (Greenwillow, 2004) are recommended picture books, while Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007) and Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (Scholastic, 2007) are recommended for more advanced readers ages nine and up.

Titles are hand-picked by Patterson and broken down by age and genre, and each comes with mini reviews, a quick list of the book's themes, recommendations of works similar to the one selected on the site, as well as links to online retailers such as,,, and local independent booksellers.

“These are very, very special books that kids will gobble up and ask for more,” Patterson writes on his Web site.

The site’s community section includes a social aspect that kids will love—chats, videos, a blog, as well as messages from Patterson and other authors and celebrities who are passionate about getting kids excited about reading. Patterson also interviews Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Rick Riordan (the "Percy Jackson" series), and Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.

“You’ve found your way here because you’ve decided to take your kid’s reading future into your own hands,” Patterson writes. “Something told you the only way to get kids to read was to give them great books, cool books, books they would absolutely love. I believe we’ve gathered the crème de la crème of such reading right here.”

Between 2005 and 2007, Patterson gave away more than $600,000 to promote literacy through his annual PageTurner Awards. This Web site replaces the awards.

According to the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report by Yankelovich and Scholastic, most kids say they don’t read more because there aren’t enough really good books they like.