April 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Q & A: James Patterson Talks About Upcoming Webcast and How Literacy Saves Lives


NBA superstar Dwyane Wade and NYT bestselling author James Patterson join forces for their second webcast about literacy released April 24.

Number one bestselling author and two-time Children’s Choice Book Award Author of the Year nominee James Patterson is a passionate advocate for reading and libraries, but he tells SLJ he was a late-blooming reader who didn’t come into his love for reading until he was 20-years-old.

This April 24, Patterson joins forces—for a second time—with Miami Heat champion, NBA All-Star (and New York Times bestselling author) Dwyane Wade for a webcast for kids airing at 1pm ET (April 24) at www.JamesPattersonEvents.com where viewers can sign up in advance to watch for free.

The “Dwayne Wade and James Patterson One on One: All-Star Edition” webcast will highlight the importance of reading for success in life and will be available free of charge to schools, libraries, and for home viewing. It will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the NBA’s All-Star Jam Session from New Orleans this past February, with cameos from superstars like LeBron James.

New information added April 7: An encore presentation of the webcast will happen early May. Check www.JamesPattersonEvents.com for details.

The webcast will include interviews with NBA stars LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry, and Terrence Ross. Each player will discuss how reading helped them reach the very highest heights in their careers.

SLJ recently caught up with Patterson to talk about the webcast and his ongoing commitment to literacy.

So, how did this partnership with Dwayne Wade come up? Are you a basketball fan?

I am a basketball fan, especially a Miami Heat fan. I played ball myself, growing up, and could even dunk. Dwyane and I got together and realized how much we have in common: We’re both dedicated dads, authors, and know that without reading, we never would have gotten as far in our lives or careers as we have. And we agreed that sharing that message with kids is a life saving mission.

Parents would never knowingly send their kids into the world with a handicap, yet they do it every single day. They do it when they don’t prepare their kids to be readers.

What are we—as in the parents, the educators, the librarians, and the kids—not doing to create 100% literacy in the United States?

Starting from the top down, the government has to start treating this [illiteracy] epidemic in a serious way. We need to support libraries and schools. Give our teachers the budgets and supplies they need to do their jobs. Teachers need to realize that it doesn’t need to always be the dry, boring classics—just get the kids reading, that is the first step. And parents need to take full responsibility. They cannot rely on teachers and librarians to get their kids reading. It is their job, in their homes, to make reading a habit. 

Is it ever “too late” to cultivate a love of reading?

I don’t think it is ever too late to become a reader—I was always a top student, but I didn’t start to love reading until I was almost 20-years-old. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an urgency to make kids readers. If they aren’t reading competently by the end of middle school, everything will be harder for that child: school, activities, getting into college, and, someday, life and work. Parents would never knowingly send their kids into the world with a handicap, yet they do it every single day. They do it when they don’t prepare their kids to be readers.

What made you, James Patterson, love reading? Did you have a gateway book or author that hooked you? A person who influenced you?

My grandmother was a very big influence in my life, and a few books did open the door. I just was telling AARP about Tristram Shandy, and how it taught me that a writer can—and should—break all the rules. I thought that was pretty cool, and that was a big moment—realizing that reading is cool. It can spread ideas, start revolutions, and change the world.

Tristram Shandy

Patterson’s gateway book The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman was written by Laurence Stern and first published in 1759.

How can school librarians and librarians help in your quest?

By realizing that kids need to find books they love—that hook them—and that they can get to the classics later. First and foremost, just show these kids that there are wild, weird, funny, silly, and exciting books out there for them to read. If they want to re-read a favorite book four times, great. If they want to read sports stats or articles online, great. Whatever it takes to spark that love of reading. The rest will follow.

What have you done with your own kids to support their love of reading?

My son, Jack (age 16), was a reluctant reader. The summer he was eight-years-old, we told him he didn’t have to mow the lawn, but he had to read four books. We picked books we knew he’d like, and by the end of that summer, he loved reading. He’s in high school now, a great student and a voracious reader. But that didn’t happen by accident.

Do your children read your work?

Jack does—he’s one of my best editors and idea guys.

Do you think literacy is just about reading books now? Does reading online articles count? Or reading the words to a song? Comic books?

Everything counts, and I don’t think we should limit what kids read. The more kids read, the more they will want to read. If that means starting with comic books or sports stats or online articles—great.  Because once they realize that reading is about getting the information, finding the story, learning about the world, they will see that it isn’t boring or uncool—that it is an amazing thing they will want to do.

What can we expect from you and your writing in the future?

This summer I have a new book for the YA audience Homeroom Diaries (Little Brown, July). It is the first time I’m combining text and illustrations for that audience, and it was one of the most exciting books to write. It deals with some heavier subject matter, but things that real kids are struggling with every day. Also, I have a new middle grade series this November House of Robots (Little Brown).  It’s a really funny and heartfelt story that I think girls and boys will love.

Carolyn Sun About Carolyn Sun

Carolyn Sun was a news editor at School Library Journal. Find her on Twitter @CarolynSSun.

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. Amy Theisen says:

    Will the webcast be archived for later viewing? I was looking at the website and not seeing any mention of that. I would like to use this with our high school, but our district will be on spring break on that date.

    • Carolyn Sun Carolyn Sun says:

      Hi Amy, according to my source at the Hatchette Book Group, the webcast will be available as a video on demand starting in May. Check back on the Patterson website starting in May.