James Patterson (Photo credit David Burnett) James Patterson (David Burnett)

Just a few months ago, James Patterson finished giving away $1 million to more than 175 independent bookstores nationwide. Now, the bestselling thriller writer is turning to schools with a similar grant program.

This morning, Patterson announced his plan to give away $1.25 million to school libraries. In partnership with children’s publisher Scholastic, he will make individual donations of $1,000 to $10,000. The money can be used for books, reading programs or even technology and repairs. Scholastic Reading Club has pledged to match each grant with bonus points that can be used for books and classroom materials.

“This is not a difficult approval process,” Patterson says. Librarians, teachers, administrators or anyone else can nominate a school library anywhere in the United States that serves students from pre-K through 12th grade. “Applicants just have to state what they would do with the money in 200-300 words. What could be easier? I try not to be arrogant in the sense that I know what’s good for everybody else: I simply ask the question: ‘How can I help?’” (Applications are due May 31, 2015.)

Patterson, who has sold more than 300 million copies of his books, including books for young readers, also funds annual scholarships at more than a dozen colleges and universities. He has designed this new program to maximize the number of school libraries that will get a piece of the $1.25 grant. “The smaller donations allow us to really help a lot of libraries in a lot of places,” he says. “It lifts morale. It allows the local school library to get publicity in the community, if it hopes to do so. And, most important of all, what I’m trying to do is shine a light on a much larger problem.”

In 2014, the American Library Association’s annual report warned that “school libraries continue to feel the combined pressures of recession-driven financial tightening and federal neglect.” The report went on to note: “School libraries in some districts and some states still face elimination or de-professionalization of their programs.”

Remembering his own childhood in New York, Patterson says, “Unfortunately, our grade school had no library, but my mother was a teacher there, and she dragged us to the Newburgh town library every weekend.”

Now, Patterson is determined to make sure schoolchildren have access to books, bound books. “Kids have not made the switch to reading books on phones, tablets or even e-readers,” he says. “It isn’t useful for anyone to go on the Internet and see 2 to 4 million titles. It is useful to have human beings to talk to and help guide you to exactly the kind of book you’re looking for or hope to find.”

That takes a trained librarian and a well-stocked library. Scores of lucky schools will get some help as Patterson’s grant program disperses funds throughout the year.