Patterson backs prize to fund school libraries

Patterson backs prize to fund school libraries

Author James Patterson is donating £50,000 to a new prize that will fund school libraries.

The World Book Day Award, launched today (9th January), offers schools in the UK and Ireland the chance to win money to buy books from local bookshops to stock their libraries. Six lump sums are on up for grabs: £10,000 for the winning school; £5,000 for second place; and three lots of £3,000 for those in joint-third place.

Patterson, who last year donated £250,000 to support independent bookshops in the UK, said: “Better readers become better thinkers. I’m convinced that kids need to be inundated with books they actually like if they are ever going to get better at reading. Right now we need places where kids can go and talk about books—and libraries are those places. Children have a fundamental right to libraries in schools”

To enter the prize, schools must create a piece of writing, art, film or photography on the topic of “why we can’t live without books”. 

The award was the brainchild of World Book Day director Kirsten Grant. Amanda Punter, one of the WBD exec team and publishing director of Puffin Fiction, took the idea to Patterson. Grant said she deliberately made the brief very open: “The way they tackle the brief is very important. We’re looking for something with a lot heart, something which really shows how books have changed the children’s lives in some way.”

WBD will pick a shortlist of eight to 10 entries, before a panel comprising Patterson and Grant, as well as former “Blue Peter” presenter Helen Skelton and journalist Natasha Harding, pick the winners.

Schools are directed to spend the money on books that are to be read for pleasure, so fiction, non-fiction, picture books and graphic novels are all allowed, and textbooks are banned. If a school does not already have a relationship with a local bookshop, WBD can help them to find one that operates in their area.

“Bookshops will get involved by helping schools make their selection. It’s good for the trade because the money is going back in. It’s a win-win situation,” said Grant.

There is enough funding for the prize to take place this year and in 2016, but after that “we will see what happens”, Grant added.

The fund will be promoted in the WBD packs for schools, which are to be sent out this week, as well as on its website and through its social media channels. The deadline for entries is 30th January, and schools can upload their entries to the WBD website or send them via post to the Booksellers Association. 

The prize winners will be announced on 5th March — World Book Day 2015.