April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

James Patterson: Let’s Save Reading—and School Libraries

I know you’re mad. I know your colleagues have been fired or may be on the brink of being fired. I know your libraries are shutting their doors left and right. All this is happening, even though studies show that having children grow up without a school librarian is really, really bad.

Do we blame the digital wave? Going digital can be smart, and it can be effective for teaching. Sharing an ebook with a classroom might save a lot of money. But this transition of the book culture is not happening in a sane, well thought-out way. We’re losing bookstores and libraries. Isn’t the chance for a young kid to grow up surrounded by a roomful of books getting pretty limited? That can’t be good.

Do we blame the unforgiving economy? Sure. But something more important is going on here—something we have more control over: Our country is not prioritizing the importance of books and reading.

Books are losing a presence in our children’s lives.

We can fix this.

Let’s together embark on a crusade to get kids reading more books. I know you have done this in your communities, and I like to think I’ve been trying, too. I built my site ReadKiddoRead.com to help laypeople find books for kids. My College Book Bucks and Summer Book Bucks programs award kids with book shopping sprees at their local indies. I now have teacher scholarships set up at 20 universities (and growing) across the country. I recently pledged to donate $ one million  to help independent bookstores get back in the game. But we still have to tackle the question…

Who will save our libraries?

Before I start shipping bean bag chairs to every school district, I better back up and ask the experts.

Did you save your library? How?

Have you ever had—or have you been mulling—one great, concrete idea that, in a concrete way, will help?

What is the number one thing we need for libraries to reach the most kids and have the most impact on a school or neighborhood?

Is it all about convincing the school boards to spend money more wisely? Recently, an author writing about school funds found a school in the Pacific Northwest that spent four times as much on each cheerleader as it did on each math student. (Was Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach from “Glee,” coaching there?) I don’t know that we can challenge sports entitlement head-on. But, can we plant a seed pointing out that we’re getting out of whack here?

Does it come down to having me call your school board president? “Hi, I’m author James Patterson. I hear you’re voting in a very important election tomorrow, and I wanted to talk to you about keeping books and reading as your number one priority….”

In theory, at least, I can do this. A get-out-the-vote school board tour.

What drives school boards? Do we have to look upstream and shake up taxpaying parents? Reading starts at the home. If we don’t convince parents to take a more active role in their children’s lives, we don’t have much of a shot.

Do you need me to bring a live alligator into your library? (Susan Scatena, the children’s librarian at the Queens [NY] Library, read Mercer Mayer’s There’s an Alligator Under my Bed [Dial, 1987] to a real alligator when kids met her summer reading challenge. In my opinion, she’s a hero.)

Tell me with whom I need to speak. Tell me how to start changing the system’s priorities.

I’d like to feature your stories where I can—my Facebook page, along with my websites JamesPatterson.com and ReadKiddoRead. Help me get your voice out there. Please, use my below comments section as an idea board.

First: I like BIG ideas.

Second: I’m going to choose at least one big idea from your voices, and make it happen. I think we will make a great team.

James Patterson, Children’s Choice Book Awards Author of the Year winner, has sold over 280 million books worldwide and holds the Guinness World’s Record for the most New York Times bestsellers. His latest books for middle- grade and YA readers include Treasure Hunters and Confessions: The Private School Murders (both Hachette, 2013).

Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library JournalStronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.


  1. Heather Albee-Scott says:

    We started working on rebuilding the library at my daughter’s school 2 years ago. The library was closed for 5 years, no librarian and few materials. We now have a librarian (part-time), we’ve partnered with our district library, we’ve brought 6000 more titles into the library and we’re sharing the love of reading, for pleasure, with our students. Here is an article from when we started: http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2011/12/group_working_to_update_librar.html

  2. The majority of students at my middle school are born into low income households so access to books is a high priority for me. I currently use book fair funds, donations and grant resources to provide a wide variety in our library collection and to give books to our students to keep for themselves. I would love to be able to provide books for them, even when school is not in session, with a book mobile. I envision a book mobile that could visit neighborhoods in our community and provide a snack, read alouds, booktalks and free books for our students so that they are surrounded by literature. I attached a link to a blog post that I wrote sharing my thoughts on how librarians can help overcome poverty and reach all of our students. Thanks for all that you do to promote reading!

  3. It is wonderful to see other top authors speak up for libraries! I’ve been a professionally published author since 1995 and have written many, many books (William Stanek for technical works, William Robert Stanek for learning books and compilations, and Robert Stanek for everything else I write). As a technology journalist, I’ve written for PC Magazine, Dr. Dobbs, TechNet Magazine and a variety of other leading magazines. As a technology writer, I’ve written for Simon & Schuster, Random House, Macmillan, Pearson, Microsoft, O’Reilly and other publishers.

    My publishers and I have digital distribution with several dozen retail and library partners. I probably have more titles in digital distribution than just about any other author as there are nearly 1000 William Robert Stanek titles available at libraries worldwide in digital. I’ve been in digital in libraries for many years and have been an outspoken supporter of libraries and digital in libraries for many years and it has been a great experience.

    If you’re an author or reader who wants to show your support for libraries, there are lots of ways to do it. One way is to share your experiences on social media about your favorite libraries, favorite books, and favorite library staff.

    It’s also important to help spread the word about the digital offerings available at libraries, including ebooks and digital audio. You can help spread the word about library ebook lending by supporting a4le. Learn more at http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/a4le.

    Thank you!

  4. Thanks for this great article! It’s great to see authors stand up for libraries and especially school libraries. I’d love to to tell you how we’re working to help save all kinds of libraries across the country. I work with an organization called EveryLibrary that is the first and only National Political Action Committee that works to fund political campaigns for library ballot measures. So far we have helped primarily public libraries gain the votes they need to win funding but we are in full support of ensuring that school libraries get the funding they need as well. In the last 8 months we have helped libraries across the country win 8.75 million dollars in funding through ballot measures. This kind of tax revenue is the primary funding source for most libraries. Unlike grants and one-time donations, this money is the sustainable funding that libraries need to continue teaching kids and communities to read and gain a lifelong love of reading. If you’re interested in talking to us more about what we’re doing, we’d love to hear from you. Thanks!

  5. I try to keep a lot of my ideas on my school library blog. It’s hard to keep up, but overall I try to keep a record of bulletin boards, my book reviews, classroom activities that use the library, library contests, research projects, book display ideas, on-line book club selections, From the Ashes Literary magazine, summer reading ideas and any other ideas I can think of to promote reading at the high school level. I hope what I do makes a difference. http://iamediacenter.blogspot.com/

  6. Margaret Walters Gamble says:

    James Patterson, we need you! I was recently in a meeting with my district superintendent, who declared that we need to change the culture of our community. The district we live and educate in, is unfortunately better known for Spring Break and Thunder Beach. Our students deserve a community known for it’s commitment to education and literacy, funded and developed with equity and success for EVERY child! We are committed to making this happen, and are searching for the plan and the resources. My ideas: 1. not just a book for every baby born here, but ongoing support to educate parents about the importance of reading and literacy the first 5 years so that students come to school ready to succeed. 2. enlisting the assistance of billboard companies to publicly declare we are a district that reads! Literacy promotions advertising community book events, local authors, and local celebrities shown with their favorite books. 3. Community shared reading experiences. Through the local libraries and schools, books discussion groups are formed to offer participatory literacy experiences for ALL ages. 4. Partner with organizations such as http://www.firstbook.org and http://www.wegivebooks.org to establish book ownership for children. Approximately 60% of our students are considered high poverty, so book ownership is not a reality for many households. 5. Foster a culture in which citizens ask, “What are you reading?” and civilized conversation and the exchange of ideas flow freely. 6. Prepare students to THINK, CREATE, and COLLABORATE through literacy initiatives.
    We need your help to make this happen. This takes dedication, time, planning and funding. This is my dream, and dedication I have. Time I can find, planning I can do…funding….I lack. If you truly are seeking an environment in which to affect change, we are here and we need you!

  7. Anni West LaPrise says:

    We need to get the word out because many supporters don’t know that schools don’t have to have a library to operate. When I have told people, they get upset and wonder why they didn’t know. They wanted to know how this happened and who do they hold responsible. Many are baby boomers who grew up when the federal government gave money for books and librarians. Maybe we should use facebook and other means to get the boomers to ask their kids and grandkids this question – “Does your school have a library with new books and a librarian who can help you?” Most will be suprised by the answer no and if they get a no, then they should write to the local paper asking why. Librarians and teachers can push, but it the parents and grandparents that can make things happen. A bill in the U.S. Senate has language to fund libraries again. States need to know that libraries are wanted.

    I am lucky. I am in a district that supports its libraries as much as it can. We have no public library in the township so parents are the real support. But when Michigan cut school funding, my district was forced to cut the other librarian. It was the last cut made to get a million dollars out of the budget. No one wanted to do it because of all the parent support we have. Maybe parents and grandparents will help the rest of the schools if they know about the problem.

  8. My belief is that we have to get parents committed and enthusiastic about creating lifelong readers. With parental support, school libraries will gain an important advocate. I would have reading programs for families, do parent workshops, and create a school wide culture that celebrated reading and literacy. Every day is reading day!

    In my experience, students react well to one-on-one recommendations based on their interest, book trailers, and a variety of reading materials in different formats and genres.

  9. Hello Mr. Patterson and THANKS…thanks for speaking up, speaking out, and for sharing your gifts through your books. I’m a passionate middle school librarian and active through regional, state, and national channels.

    Here’s my BIG IDEA: Let’s create teams of KIDS and AUTHORS and strong LIBRARIANS to create a CAMPAIGN to serve as ambassadors for advocating for libraries to COLLEGES/UNIVERSITIES–in teacher training programs and in sports arenas, to GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS when budgets are being decided, to BOARDS of ED at their conferences, trainings, newsletters, to SCHOOL ADMIN in their coursework, conferences, and prof development, to PARENT functions so they will continue to advocate for the Right to Libraries….could be LIVE visits (best) or VIRTUAL ones and at at movies theaters, half times, highways, subways, planes, trains, award shows, radio, websites, social media, Broadway, restaurants, zoos, museums, parks, hotels….

    I’ll gladly help organize and have a team of students ready to lead the way. Want to work together on this?

    Sue Kowalski

    • I like this idea a lot. So many students have powerful voices and reading helps them find that voice. I’m sure there are students who would step up in every corner of the U.S. and be a part of this.

    • Wendy Scalfaro says:

      I like Sue’s ideas for advocacy. To hers I would add that these groups of kids, authors, and librarians could create marketing materials and PSAs directed to new parents on the importance of reading and supporting libraries. These materials could be distributed to pediatricians’ and obstetricians’ offices, to hospitals’ maternity wards and pediatric wings, Departments of Social Services, to medical residents who are going into pediatrics or obstetrics, to foster and adoptive parents…The list is endless.

    • I LOVE Sue’s BIG idea! I have many students in my junior high school that would love to speak out for the only place the can read, relax, hang out, and be themselves. To this long list of pubic forum,s I would like to add an advertisement during the Super Bowl. Kids look to sports figures as role models. What better platform to get them reading than allowing them to see their favorite football player advocating for libraries on the most watched playing field!

      • BIG IDEAS.
        Yes, Justina! You are thinking big. The SuperBowl would get the needed attention!
        We could invite students and the public to create the PSA video, providing key points to cover. Have public vote on best few, and have news media cover the top videos. SuperBowl ads cost a bundle, so a sponsor would be needed or… just announce the winning ads that would have been used “if only there was money” for school libraries!

  10. Susan Polos says:

    I will join the campaign! I know others who will, too! Thank you, Mr. Patterson and thank you, Sue Kowalski, for a great BIG IDEA! I am in – where do we sign up!

  11. Carrie Randall says:

    Dear Author Patterson,
    I want to believe we can make a difference. I want to believe others are willing and ready to stand up for literacy and libraries. I work in a profession where everything for which we work centers around reading, comprehension, fluency, higher-leveling thinking…aka letters, words, thoughts. My BIG thought is to get state and national legisation passed that requires certified librarians in public schools from grades K through 12, not beginning in grade 7 as it does in New York State. I would increase the amount schools are mandated to spend on library books per pupil to $20. The current 1/3 or 1/4 of a hardcover book per pupil is not setting a strong example of dedication t learning, thinking and reading. What occurs if districts do not support the current mandate? If I had th money I would have a bookbus for our small, rural towns to support children and parents that do not have means to reach our public library, miles away. I would give newborns in our town book baskets to encourage literacy as a lifelong journey. Paradigm shift but people listen to money.

  12. Hello. I’m Susan Scatena, the person Mr. Patterson referred to in the article. Yes, I read to an alligator this year to get my kids to read. Click on my name and you’ll see the pictures.

  13. I am thinking that someone like you, James, could bring this idea into being: how about writing a dystopian novel about a futuristic society without any libraries–school, public, or government? At first, people believe that ebooks are just fine, but then they begin to understand the anything electronic can be changed instantaneously….that if an organization like NSA can hack into our calls and emails, they can hack into our electronic publications as well. And, they can change them instantly. Imagine a world where what we think is truth is changed at the whim or those in power. The only real truth could be that which is in bound format and is now locked away. What price would people pay to have libraries then? How might society change if this came to fruition? How would schools and education change if truth is not what it seems? Perhaps then we might understand the real value of not just electronic resources, but print collections, free and available to all, and librarians to curate print collections for their patrons and make them readily available!

  14. Lonna Pierce says:

    Mr. Patterson,
    Thank you for your willingness to help and support librarians and libraries! I, on the other hand, have no energy left to fight. I have 7 forty-minute classes per day, 40 classes per week in three different schools. As bad as that is, my district added insult to injury, and also took away my part-time clerical aide. So my one forty-minute “prep” first thing in the morning is no prep at all, as I am frantically trying to collect 7 baskets of books from 3 floors, scan & return the books, and print out class overdue lists before kids come in to me at 8:30 AM. I love to teach, I am passionate about books, poetry, child development, literacy and learning! But I simply cannot continue to do the job of three people without crashing. I am moved to tears almost daily by this load, and my inability to get my library management work even started. I am not a crier; we lost our entire school, including my 11,000 book library, to a flood two years ago, and have survived admirably. I appreciate every thing you do, but I am too overwhelmed to organize a group and help. Apologies.

  15. We need to make ourselves THE place to be. It needs to be the heart of every school and community and in that effort I think we need to rethink what we are and what we do and how we do it. Kids visit the library with their classes, but then they leave. Many are NOT visiting the public libraries any more and the nearest book store (independent or chain) is 30 minutes to an hour away, they are not going. What they are doing is reading more in a digital format…..as they get older. The book is not going anywhere for our younger audience. So here is my big idea (and some places are already doing this):

    Instead of having a “school library” and a “public library” could they not be combined? A school library that has a class room space, lots of shelves for the age and school appropriate shelves, a smart board, a story time pit and at least one media lab, laptops and tablets for student and teacher use. But then add on, add another area for the pre-school age and the young adults and the adults. The little ones need smaller shelves but I also envision more of a children’s museum space. This space could also be used for the school for science experiments and special events. It should be welcoming and inviting. It should be open during the day and staffed by a children’s librarian. But the young adult and adult space should be more of a gathering space, it should offer a cafe feel with wifi, it should offer classes as well and while it does have some books on site and offer MANY from a shared set of resources (perhaps county or state wide?). It might even contain a small book store of its own offering used (donated) titles and brand new best-sellers. It is best known for its digital titles, which any librarian would be happy to show them how to download. Adult librarians need to market themselves, not just as librarians but as information and computer experts….there to help with any need. These libraries should be open past school hours, to evenings, weekends and summers. There should be lots of special programs offered to draw the community in.

    Sorry my class is coming in…..but I have so many ideas I could not contain them in this short message! I hope it gives you a glimpse though.

  16. Carol Heinsdorf says:

    The only way to insure that every student in our nation has open access to an adequately resourced school library with a full-time certified librarian is through legislation at the state level in each and every state.
    Thank you for your support, Mr. Patterson; it is greatly appreciated. It is rare for a person in a prominent position to understand and speak out about the importance of certified librarians to out students and the future of our democracy. You get it!

  17. Thank you, James. I agree with Sue, we need a campaign. And Peggy, yes it is a dystopian story.

    The sounds of our falling trees need to be heard now. Those sounds must resonate as story.

    The stories that need most to be told are
    1) the story of what children lose when they lose a strong library program with the leadership of a credentialed librarian
    2) the story of inequity (my suburban library is well funded; the city program five blocks away has been decimated.

    I see these in the form of, perhaps, a “decumulative” story–kinda the opposite of “The House that Jack Built” or kinda like “The Giving Tree”.

    What if authors and illustrators told these stories in the form of compelling, beautifully produced video stories? What if we ran these nationally as PSAs?

    I am working on one myself using a Jenga tower.

    Joyce Valenza

  18. I don’t have a big idea at the moment, but I do want to say how much I appreciate all you do to support children, literacy, and libraries. I have long been a fan of your novels, but now I am a fan of the actions you use to back your belief in strong library programs helping children build strong literacy skills. I have worked in schools where the only books students had access to and the only time anyone read to the children was when they visited me in our school library or a teacher read to them. My vision would be school libraries being properly funded, current, well kept spaces where students could engage in a variety of literacy activities. A place that district administration adequately supported so that school librarians could spend more time and energy focusing on programs and children rather than fund raising to provide bare basics. Thank you so much for throwing your hat in the ring with us!

  19. Marian Baker Gierlach says:

    I have been the school librarian/county branch manager of a joint use school/county branch library in a tiny, rural, very economically depressed community in Cochise County, Arizona, since 2001. The school serves pre-school through eight grade and our total enrollment is 20 students this year but, we still have a school library. Not just a school library with reference books and age appropriate reading materials for our students, but a full service, fully automated, library with access to all the materials and interlibrary loan services that they would find in any public library. For our community, the school provides space for the county branch library in the original, historic one-room school house built in 1910. This arrangement began in the late 1970’s when a contract was signed between the school district and the county library district, and continues, uninterrupted, as I write this. That’s not to say there haven’t been times when school board members or principals would have sacrificed the library to save a few bucks but, so far, no such efforts have succeeded.

    I wonder if more schools were able to enter into similar agreements with their town or county governments, and could share the costs and other responsibilities of a library with a partner agency, if more school libraries could be saved.

  20. To save school libraries, public perception about library programs must change. We need to make the public passionate about the importance of libraries in children’s lives, and outraged at the very thought of removing them. Right now, sadly, most parents are unwilling to fight for libraries for their children. They shrug and say, “what a shame,” but they don’t care enough to come to a school board meeting and shake their fists. Music programs faced similar problems back in the 90s, but even despite the economy are in much better shape than library programs today. Current public perception that music programs are essential makes it almost impossible for school boards to do away with them. Parents fight for them. I saw this myself when our school tried to scale back (not entirely cut) the music department … parents showed up to meetings in droves, circulated petitions, wrote letters, and ultimately the school board kept the music department intact. Sadly, the school board cut all of our elementary librarian positions instead, and the public outcry was minimal. Those cuts stuck, our elementary reading scores are dropping, and our administrators are scratching their heads and wondering why.
    The increase in public awareness of the value of school music programs is in large part due to an incredibly successful media campaign accompanied by two Hollywood blockbusters (Music of the Heart and Mr. Holland’s Opus). Today, VH1 sponsors the Save the Music foundation (http://www.cvschools.org/eagle_view.cfm?subpage=9735) which could serve as a fabulous model for what could be done for libraries. The Save the Music foundation raises awareness (ads for music in schools still appear on television and elsewhere in the media) and donates instruments to underserved schools. Perhaps a similar foundation could be started to raise awareness about the importance of school libraries and to donate books AND subscriptions to research databases (such as online encyclopedias) AND perhaps even computers (you said think big–computers are essential to libraries today). Ads on Google or Amazon would be particularly appropriate! And as for the movies …. any ideas for a script, Mr. Patterson? What about your friend Chris Grabenstein’s successful new book “Mr. Lemoncello’s library?” Thank you so much for your willingness to help. And thank you, too, for asking librarians to work with you. There is much the public does not know about what we do–our jobs are surprisingly multifaceted these days. We are not the librarians most parents remember from their youth, and our libraries (like the one in Mr. Lemoncello’s library) are not the same kind of library, either. But the importance of reading has not changed!!

    Maggie Bokelman
    Eagle View Middle School Library
    Mechanicsburg, PA

  21. Mr. Patterson,
    Thank you for your support of school libraries! The pervasive decline of school library funding needs a highly visible champion like you to help us turn the tide. I am mystified about the shortsightedness shown in so many school boards in their decisions to underfund school libraries. As in my own CT district, teacher-librarian positions have been cut to part-time or eliminated in schools across the country. This trend has continued despite the reams of research studies that you mention which show a strong correlation between full-time certified librarians with strong library programs and student achievement.

    It’s time for a build-it-they-will-come approach backed by a grassroots multimedia marketing campaign. For those of us in the trenches, the adoption of the Common Core Standards demonstrates very clearly the need for full-time teacher-librarians in each school. We are trained in inquiry, information literacy skills and can guide teachers in infusing technology into lessons – all required by the CCSS. So how to restore what has been lost to budget cuts? Here are some ideas I’ve addressed directly to TLs to restore the professionally-staffed school library to its rightful place as the heart and soul of a learning community:

    1. Tie your professional development goals to demonstrating your impact on student achievement with measureable objectives. Ask your evaluator to collaborate with you to write a blog post or short article about how you met that objective.

    2. Get your message out to the world about what you do – write it, shout it, sing it, put it in a video short – whatever works. There are not enough of us TLs communicating about the amazing things we accomplish in our schools and libraries every day. There are plenty of platforms out there to get your voice heard. Here’s one in which I’ve shared the work that I do:


    3. Use your imagination and knowledge to reinvent what your library is and what it can do to raise achievement and literacy levels in your wider community. I partnered with our district literacy specialist to create a family literacy center in our school library that provides access to our school collection to the entire town: http://connectlearningtoday.com/school-libraries-centers-family-literacy/

    If you’ve had your position cut like so many others, I know what you’re thinking – you’ve done so much already. You’re tired. So am I. With so little paid time in your library, some or all of this is going to have to get done on your own time. But what’s the alternative?

    With advocates like Mr. Patterson, we can join our voices to reverse the trends and make the school library the school center again.

  22. Dear James
    I am parent of two elementary school children and in my quest to engage and excite them about reading, I created a website called BiblioNasium, Where Kids Flex their Reading Muscles!

    It is a social platform that connects children to the 3 constituents that most influence what they read (friends, educators and parents), to share and exchange book recommendations. It also records their literary journey through cataloguing what they are reading, what they like to read and their favorite books. Our mission is to encourage, excite and engage this generation of digital natives to become better readers. And we use the metaphor of sports in our gymnasium/”BiblioNasium”, because reading is like a sport: one needs to set goals, one needs to have discipline and practice, then monitor and measure progress and then one will see results!

    We have had great success and great recognition, specially by the AALS which gave us an award for Best Websites 2013 for Teaching and Learning. We get daily emails from librarians and teachers that use our platform and love it, and are finding great success in motivating children to read.

    There is great opportunity in using digital tools and platforms with children these days, and libraries and librarians can re-invent their engagement strategies and how they can stay relevant in children’s literary lives by taking advantage of these resources.

    I invite you and your readers to explore our platform, give us feedback, and consider us a partner in our collective efforts to raise more engaged and excited readers. That is our ultimate goal after all.

    Marjan Ghara
    Founder. CEO
    BiblioNasium, Where Kids Flex their Reading Muscles!

  23. Margaret Walters Gamble says:

    James Patterson, my county needs your help! I was recently in a meeting with my district superintendent, who declared that we need to change the culture of our community. The district we live and educate in is unfortunately better known for Spring Break, the BK Brawler and Thunder Beach. Our students deserve a community known for its commitment to education and literacy, funded and developed with equity and success in mind for EVERY child! We are committed to making this happen, and are searching for the plan and the resources. My ideas: 1. not just a book for every baby born here, but ongoing support to educate parents about the importance of reading and literacy the first 5 years so that students come to school ready to succeed. 2. enlisting the assistance of billboard companies to publicly declare we are a district that reads! Literacy promotions advertising community book events, local authors, and local celebrities shown with their favorite books. 3. Community shared reading experiences. Through the local libraries and schools, books discussion groups are formed to offer participatory literacy experiences for ALL ages. 4. Partner with organizations such as http://www.firstbook.org and http://www.wegivebooks.org to establish book ownership for children. Approximately 60% of our students are considered high poverty, so book ownership is not a reality for many households. 5. Foster a culture in which citizens ask, “What are you reading?” and civilized conversation and the exchange of ideas flow freely. 6. Prepare students to THINK, CREATE, and COLLABORATE through literacy initiatives.
    We need your help to make this happen. This takes dedication, time, planning and funding. This is my dream, and dedication I have. Time I can find, planning I can do…funding….I lack. If you truly are seeking an environment in which to affect change, we are here and we need you!

  24. Deborah Hoover says:

    As a school librarian working multiple buildings it is my student’s voices that administrators hear the loudest, but I target how it is heard through legislator visits where my students do the talking, school board committee meetings where video of students working in the library or explaining what they learned how to do in the library, their letters to the editor during national library and education week and any other opportunities I can think of to voice their concerns. I love Sues’ idea, but it think is going to take a combination of all of the ideas that were proposed to attack the problem from multiple angles. It is really a problem of misallocated priorities — the best teaching is really done through guidance and discovery (inquiry) the library is the best place to promote that – that is what we should be focusing on, not how many fundraisers we need to do to keep positions and have collection budgets.

  25. Thank you for your advocacy, Mr. Patterson!

    One idea came to mind: Enable student opportunity to participate in the creation process by setting up school library media labs in schools with certified school librarians focused on empowering and enhancing creative storytelling using multiple mediums. Include a training program to equip school librarians with the skills needed to facilitate participation in content creation through these labs, to ensure they will be used effectively. This should include collaborative content creation and sharing between students, classes and schools to enhance the learning experience.

    Why media labs? Reading isn’t just about consuming and comprehending text; it’s also participating in the author’s creation. After meeting Maximum in When the Wind Blows, I wanted the story to continue, because you created an engaging community of characters through your storytelling. Empower students to tell their own stories because content creation and storytelling are just as important as reading, to develop robust literacy skills.

    Access to hardware, software and digital tools through a media lab affords multiple mediums for storytelling, creating and sharing. Developing creativity, storytelling, collaborative and digital writing skills can have a profound impact on student engagement and success. Unfortunately, a barrier impedes usage of these powerful resources due to the cost and access to devices, resources, and the internet for both schools and families. School librarians often lack the time, technical training or experience, as well as the hardware, software and resources to provide access to these experiences for their students.

    Valarie Kingsland

  26. These are much less likely to compete with other game fish.

    We are truly blessed in this watershed to have these resources aand facilities available, aand a quite verbal one at that.

  27. Constance Vidor says:

    You asked for BIG ideas. Here is mine:
    TV and social media present unprecedented levels of distraction for families. What if cable companies, internet providers, twitter, in short: the entire online world would voluntarily agree to SHUT DOWN for two hours, say from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. throughout the entire country–rolling through time zones–to encourage sustained quiet reading, just for one evening, announced and publicized in advance, and paired with a “Get a book” campaign leading up to the no-internet evening? The value of such an event would be the publicity and “stunt value” attention it would place on the importance of families sitting down together quietly to just read together without interruption. After the end of the no-internet hours, families all over the country could post their experiences, talk about what books they read, etc.

  28. Kirsten Truman says:

    Dear Mr. Patterson,

    Thank you for all you are doing to support libraries and independent bookstores!

    I take inspiration from author/independent bookstore owner Ann Patchett. From the day the doors opened to Patchett’s bookstore two years ago, her business has been thriving. She has been on the media circuit ever since, sharing the story of this phenomenon. With every interview and presentation, Patchett is restoring faith in the printed word. Her efforts have not been for naught. In 2012, Patchett was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.

    Taking a cue from Patchett, we could hold up exemplary school libraries for the public to admire and get on the media circuit ourselves to promote how they are making a difference in children’s lives, and why books matter.

    We need Patchett and you, Mr. Patterson, and other galvanizing personalities to stump for us and restore confidence in the future of school libraries. Imagine a video with a host of impassioned library spokespeople spreading the word. The video could also feature some of our nation’s most luminary school libraries and librarians. These libraries could be recognized as “James Patterson School Libraries,” which perhaps could bring funding and press opportunities.

    Every year different libraries could be featured, and given the opportunity to strut their stuff and hang their own “James Patterson School Library” plaque on the wall. That which you pay attention to grows.

    Here’s to big ideas!

    Kirsten Truman
    Ockley Green School Library
    Portland, Oregon

  29. First, thank you for caring about school libraries! I care about them deeply as well. I am passionate about helping kids build their information literacy skills and I am constantly thinking about how I can excite students about reading.

    I do have a big idea about how to save school libraries; I even wrote a whole book about it ( The Tibrarian Handbook, UpstartBooks 2012). School libraries need teachers. We need TEACHER-librarians (which I call “Tibrarians”) in every school. The library needs to be thought of as another classroom, an extension of the learning environment. School libraries become essential when there are Tibrarians in those libraries creating dynamic lessons that help students learn how to locate, evaluate, and use information, and get excited about reading. We need to work to make the librarian position a TEACHER position. We need to change school district requirements so that the school librarian is someone with a background in teaching (or someone who is at least taking education courses). It’s a tall order, I know, with positions being cut every day. I believe, however, that if we all become Tibrarians we will prove our worth to the school community.

    Thank you, again, for believing in libraries. I hope you can convince others to believe I them too.

  30. I’ve been working as an elementary library media specialist for five years, and in that time, I’ve tried several ideas to put more books in the hands of my students. Like many school and public libraries across the nation, my budget is cut a little more each year. I don’t believe it’s fair for students to lose out and have fewer books because of funding cuts at the state and local levels. To help make up the difference, I’m always on the lookout for grants to support purchasing books for my Title I school. I also write book reviews for several library journals so I can keep the reviewed items and add them to my school’s collection. Although activities like these do put new books in my students’ hands, what I really wish I could do was boost the amount of reading students do each summer. It seems like such a waste that schools collect all the books from students at the end of each school year and lock the books in the library all summer. Summer is when students have the most time to read! And, I believe they would choose to read for pleasure if schools sent each student home with a few new, self-selected books at the end of the school year. I know libraries run the risk of students losing the books over such a long period of time, but I am willing to bet that most books would be returned at the beginning of the next school year. I would love to try this idea out, even if it’s with just one grade level. I think the amount of growth students would achieve over the summer by reading books they chose for themselves would overshadow the cost of the lost library books. And, I believe that a love of reading starts at home, so having books in the house all summer is a step in the right direction. Doing something to combat the summer reading slide is what I believe would have the most impact on the students in my district.

  31. 2013 was a great year for support of libraries and literacy, as we saw some of the world’s legendary authors stand up to lend their voices and pens to the cause. Thanks to you, Mr. Patterson, for stirring the gumbo, and thanks to Eric Jonrosh, another author of legend, to lending support to one of the biggest literacy movements this country has seen since Andrew Carnegie: Little Free Library.

    Mr. Jonrosh joined the fray this fall by donating free exchange libraries in Dallas, Minneapolis and New York, following the model established by Todd Bol and partner Rick Brooks. Public libraries and communities across the country are joining forces with Little Free Library to keep books and libraries within the reach of all. https://twitter.com/bigthought/status/412956152855404544/photo/1

  32. Thank you for your efforts to support children, reading, and libraries!
    In response to- Did you save your library? How?
    Yes, our positions and facilities were restored and we are still surviving. (However, our current superintendent and school board are implementing changes in policy that deprofessionalize the role of a school librarian in our district (Monroe County Community School Corp, Indiana) and could serve as an avenue to replace us with nonprofessionals in the future.)

    We were eliminated by our previous superintendent and school board in February, 2010. Restoring our positions was a combination of various efforts by many different people. Teachers, librarians, retired educators, parents, students, and concerned community members wrote letters to school board members and to our local newspaper, attended school board meetings (presenting both research & anecdotal evidence), used Facebook and YouTube (check out The Missing Librarian,Templeton Elementary) and created an Advocacy Group for School Librarians.

    At the end of the school year 2010, our school board and the Monroe County Education Association agreed to bring back the school librarians in exchange for making extreme cuts to our Extra-Curricular Activities. This caused a huge uproar! Our Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools raised enough money by August 2010 to make up for the cuts to the ECA funding.

    After much work on behalf of many people, the MCCSC referendum passed in Tuesday’s election on Nov. 3, 2010. This provides funding for resources and professionals in our school libraries. Referendum funding began with the 2011 budget year and will continue for a total of six years.

  33. Thank you for your efforts to support children, reading, and libraries!
    In response to- What is the number one thing we need for libraries to reach the most kids and have the most impact on a school or neighborhood?
    It is a combination, we need to have professionals in the libraries and resources available. Do the opposite of: “How to Kill a School Library: 10 Easy Steps” by Robin Overby Cox, SLJ, Dec 4, 2013.

  34. Thank you for your efforts to support children, reading, and libraries!
    In response to- Tell me to whom I need to speak, and how to start changing the sytem’s priorities?
    1) Higher education! Those people training our principals and superintendents. 2) Institutions with library science programs that are eliminating degrees and programs for school librarians. 3) School boards. Work with Stephen Krashen and Jon Scieszka to create a campaign that will reach the above groups to save libraries for children!

  35. Thank you for your efforts to support children, reading, and libraries!
    In response to- Ideas
    1) People love Alex Cross, let him be a spokesperson!
    2) Something on social media. Shout it out or dance it up with several of your famous author friends! Tell the world about the value of libraries!
    3) Something for parents who do not value literacy, yet! Offer something for the parents at the library to get them to the library to hear (not just read) about what the library has to offer their children. (Similar to free trips for people looking at vacation condos.)
    4) Host an event (something irresistible) and invite superintendents and presidents of school boards that will give them ideas on how to make their school systems better to stop the flow of students to private schools. One of these ideas of course, saving their school libraries and professional librarians!

  36. Thank you for speaking up about your concerns of reading and school libraries. I am very fortunate to be in a school district (Fresno Unified School District in Fresno, CA) which values libraries and librarians! We have full time teacher librarians in every middle school and high school, as well as full time library technicians (clerks). We have library technicians in every elementary school. Our district has also invested recently in some quality databases for our students. It is still challenging to get students to read. Our teachers are working hard to provide time and opportunities for students to read for many purposes. I appreciate having you in our corner.

  37. Karen Smith-Cox says:

    Until you pressure the school boards, superintendents and the state’s legislatures NO amount of advocacy will change school laws about having a certified school librarian and a school library. A few years ago my former superintendent stopped me and said if I didn’t prove to him the library program was important, he was cutting me. The students wrote a petition to save me but until the “LAW” says a school has to have something, nothing changes. You need to show up at a state’s school board convention, talk to a state’s legislatures or spend billions on a campaign to save school libraries. Believe me, I worked for 15 years as a school librarian and know how things work.

  38. As a teacher-librarian in Canada where cuts to school libraries always are a concern, I’ve decided the best way to tackle the issue of trying to keep school libraries open is to educate my students and then have them speak out on the issue when they’re older. My grade 9 students are currently working on multimedia projects trying to answer the question “What is the value of school libraries?” I started this project not to save my school library or any other school library, for that matter, but to get my students to reflect on all the things they have been taught about how to learn and the value of learning how to read deeply through the school library program in the past three years at my school. I want them to take this information with them as they move to high school, post-secondary education and into life as an adult. They may not see the value of all the things they’ve been taught through the library program yet, but I believe that one day, they will come to realize how important school library programs were to their success in life. It’s with this information in mind that I hope that as adults, they will stand up for all libraries and make their voices heard. I firmly believe that saving school libraries is all about educating people to understand the value school libraries bring to every day life.