Best-Selling Author James Patterson Donates Books to 30,000 Middle School Students, Surprises Congress MS with Visit

Sixth and seventh graders in middle schools throughout the School District of Palm Beach County are going home with an extra incentive to get reading thanks to best-selling author James Patterson, who has generously donated books for 30,000 students in District schools.

Patterson, who has teamed up with the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County and the School District, has made the donation as part a promotion to help students “get caught up in reading,” especially over the summer.

To kick off the promotion, Patterson and Superintendent Robert Avossa surprised students at Congress Middle School on Wednesday with copies of the books and time with the author during a class visit and assembly in the school’s cafeteria.

Sixth graders received a copy of “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life,” and seventh graders received “Maximum Ride: The Angel Experience.”

“Students who read become better citizens, better spouses, better parents,” Patterson said. “But it’s not up to the teacher to get them reading. It’s up to the parents, the grandparents, the neighbors.”

Patterson encourages students, even in the summer, to read a half an hour to an hour a day. However, Patterson, who is a Palm Beach County resident, also understands that to get students excited about reading, it’s important to give them a good book that they are going to like.

“Just like pro athletes don’t just practice during their season, you have to practice [reading] all of the time,” Dr. Avossa told students while encouraging them to read year-round.

The message was well-received by the Congress Middle students, who also had the opportunity to ask Patterson if he has always enjoyed reading and writing (He has.) — and if he writes math books, too (He doesn’t, and admits he’s not very good at math.)

Studies show that students who do not engage in learning over the summer months can lose up to two years of learning gains, which is known as “the summer slide.”

“Parents, you wouldn’t let your children slide in soccer or baseball,” Patterson said, and he feels education is just as important of a commitment by the family.

Congress Middle School Principal Denise O’Conner said that she was very excited for her students to get the opportunity to hear from the author. “It’s so important that students are reading not just for content, but for pleasure,” she said.

And reading for pleasure, Patterson says, will help students develop a desire to be life-long readers. “It’s like eating broccoli that tastes like ice cream.”

To view Patterson’s talk with students, click here for the Facebook Live video.