James Patterson donating $2 million to classroom libraries

NEW YORK — James Patterson is stepping up his game.

The best-selling author has increased his annual donations for classroom libraries from $1.75 million to $2 million. Scholastic Inc. told The Associated Press on Monday that Patterson is distributing 4,000 gifts of $500 each to teachers around the country, from Mechanic Falls, Maine, to Cheney, Kansas. The so-called "Patterson Pledge" was launched in 2015 and is run in coordination with Scholastic Book Clubs, which adds book club points to Patterson's contribution. More than 80,000 teachers applied for donations.

"I can't underscore enough how important books and reading are to a child's development — better readers make better people, and ultimately better citizens," Patterson said in a statement. "I'm so grateful for the teachers who are doing imperative work with students every day, in every school in the country. These grants are my way of acknowledging their extraordinary efforts."

"Teachers often have to find their own funds and use their personal money to buy books and build fresh classroom libraries. This is why we at Scholastic Book Clubs are truly inspired by James Patterson's commitment to offer real help to teachers in this work," Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, said in a statement.

Over the past few years, Patterson has also given millions of dollars to bookstores and literacy programs and endowed thousands of college scholarships for teachers.

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