Bestselling US author James Patterson is giving bookstores in Australia and New Zealand the chance to receive up to $5000 out of a total prize pool of $100,000 to spend on initiatives to get children reading.
Patterson made the announcement in Sydney on the 5th of May, in a bid to stop the risk of children living lives without books. “There is no doubt in my mind that bookshops play an essential role in the community in getting kids reading,” says James, who has run similar initiatives in the UK and the US.
“I have been inspired, moved and delighted by the innovative proposals I have received from bookstores in the UK and the US. And I have been thrilled to see the real difference that these grants have already started to make. I can’t wait to see the proposals from Australian and New Zealand bookstores.”
To apply for the grant, booksellers must already have a dedicated children’s book section in their store, and come up with some new and innovative ideas to create a young readership.
“This wonderful opportunity for booksellers provided by James Patterson through Penguin Random House, is another example of the bond between authors and booksellers working together to build the next generation of readers,” says Lincoln Gould, the Chief Executive of Booksellers NZ. “I am sure that New Zealand booksellers will take up the challenge of developing creative ideas to enhance the reading experience of young people.”
Recent research has revealed that the number of books in the family home can have a direct impact on a child’s reading level. A 2014 study across 42 countries found that having a home library enhances academic performance for all children, an improvement that was irrespective of the parent’s own education. The implications of this research mean that by having children’s books available in the house children’s reading and academic performance is enhanced, something that is crucial to New Zealand, where reading skills have dropped significantly since 2009, according to the most recent (2012) OECD report on literacy across 65 countries and half a million children.
“This initiative shines a light on literacy. It prompts us to ask: what do we want our future to be and how do we get there?” says James. “Bookshops guard against a future in which far too many children are illiterate – so many bookstores are already making a difference in their communities and I’m looking to help bookstores who want to do more.”
So what kind of initiatives might be considered innovative by James? “I’m open to all sorts of ideas. From an after-school bookclub, to an emailed newsletter,” states James. “From a spot bonus to a valued employee, to funds to create a storytelling tent. Send me your ideas and I will read them. For me, making the pledge is the easy part. The tricky task will be deciding which shops to help.”
Booksellers have until 5pm Tuesday 30 June to apply for the grant. To download an application form, visit www.booksellers.co.nz/book-news/james-patterson