As the crisis continues to grip Greece, families are being forced to make cutbacks in more and more areas of their lives simply to make ends meet. One of these areas is books for their children, ranging from crucial textbooks to the kind of literature that offers escape and transports them, for example, to exciting worlds of fictional adventure.
Consequently, 26 students on the island of Tilos, close to Turkey in the eastern Aegean, were left speechless at the end of the school year as it was announced that an author from the other side of the Atlantic would donate an entire library to their elementary school. Maria Kamma-Aliferi, mayor of Tilos, was moved by James Patterson’s initiative to help the island community. “The students thought they were living a fairy tale,” said Kamma.
Through his website, ReadKiddoRead.com, as well as scholarships and book donations, the American author, whose books have sold more than 3 million copies, is crusading to promote a love of reading worldwide and eradicate illiteracy.
A portion of the income from the new US television series “Zoo,” based on his homonymous 2012 novel, will be allocated to the local elementary school on Tilos, a new addition to Patterson’s campaign.
“Give books to children. One book will lead them to another,” Patterson told Kathimerini. “It is almost impossible to successfully complete an encyclopedic education without being an adequate reader,” he said. “Without the proper education, one won’t be able to find a job, become an informed citizen, and succeed in life. Good reading skills set the fundamentals for everything. Hence, let the children read whatever they like. The more they read, the more likely it is they will advance to more demanding texts,” said Patterson, who is also the Guinness World Record holder for e-book sales.
ReadKiddoRead.com suggests methods which parents and educators can use to help children develop a love of reading. Patterson also founded the College Book Bucks initiative, an essay-writing contest for high school seniors who compete for gift certificates. The author has donated 170,000 dollars to this cause alone over the last three years. Furthermore, he has delivered book-filled boxes to 400 schools in the United States, over 200,000 books to soldiers, and in 2013 alone, more than 1 million dollars in scholarships for students majoring in education.
His Tilos donation is of particular importance today due to the knock-on effects of the economic crisis. “Our community is continually growing due to the financial crisis. More and more families hailing from Tilos are returning [from the cities] to secure a better way of life, or at least the necessary conditions for survival,” said Kamma. Hence, the four new students joining the island’s elementary school will be able to enjoy the new library at the beginning of the school year in September.
Kamma herself, the third Tilos mayor in her family, recalls that the island has traditionally survived thanks to private initiative. “We have always set up schools and health centers by ourselves,” she said.