Amer­i­can au­thor sur­prises Ti­los stu­dents with spe­cial gift

Kathimerini English - - Focus -

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, Read­Kid­, 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.

Read­Kid­ 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.

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