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Inspired by recent unrest, author James Patterson bringing 25,000 books to Baltimore

Author James Patterson will visit Baltimore Sept. 16 to meet with civic leaders and donate 25,000 copies of his book "Public School Superhero" to Baltimore public school students. (2006 file photo)
Author James Patterson will visit Baltimore Sept. 16 to meet with civic leaders and donate 25,000 copies of his book "Public School Superhero" to Baltimore public school students. (2006 file photo) (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

As he watched Baltimore reel from the riots that erupted April 27, bestselling author James Patterson said he was reminded of his hometown of Newburgh NY, which he describes as a "tough little river town."

Patterson wanted to help the city's rebuild in some way, and decided to stick to what he knows: books.

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Patterson, who holds the Guinness record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers of any author (his most popular books include the Alex Cross series) will visit Baltimore on Sept. 16, where he will donate 25,000 of his new book, "Public School Hero" to every Baltimore student in third through seventh grades.

"The kids have been through a lot, and I thought 'what can I do to help?'" Patterson said in an interview Wednesday. "I don't have any answers for Baltimore, other than kids need to be better readers."

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Public School Superhero, which Patterson co-authored with Chris Tebbetts, is a story about a sixth grader named Kenny Wright who takes on a superhero alter-ego to get through his days at an underfunded city school.

Patterson said the book was inspired by research he conducted at schools in impoverished cities, where students would tell him they couldn't relate to books they were reading.

"When I would go to these schools, they would say, 'there are no books about us,' Patterson said. "I wrote it for kids who aren't written a lot about in books."

Baltimore is the latest stop on Patterson's campaign to improve youth literacy, an effort that he has committed to by giving more than $1 million to school libraries. In the last decade, Patterson has given away over 1 million books to students across the nation, and visited hundreds of schools to advocate for youth literacy.

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In addition to donating books, Patterson will meet with 300 fifth-graders, city and community leaders, educators and bookstore leaders to discuss the importance of reading at the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Patterson said he was looking forward to engaging with civic leaders who he saw step up during the city's unrest.

"Sometimes the anger is justified, but burning the city down doesn't help," Patterson said. "One of the things that I f identified with and really liked was when some of the civic leaders got up and said, 'Stop…we are not going to burn this town."

Patterson said he has always liked Baltimore and has faith that the city will continue to rebuild.

"What's happening now, is people are waking up a little bit again," Patterson said. "And that's not the worst thing in the world -- to wake people up."

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

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