WEST PALM BEACH – Students from Pahokee Middle School recently traveled to Palm Beach to visit and have lunch with renowned author James Patterson.
“James and Sue Patterson were very gracious hosts to our students,” said Pahokee Middle Principal LaVoise Taylor Smith. “They opened their home and took time to make us feel special.”
Patterson talked with the students
during lunch and spent time in discussions with them on the characters and themes in his book, Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment. A new book, School’s Out Forever, was given to each student and he personally autographed the books for them. “It was such a wonderful experience for the students from Pahokee Middle School,” said Smith.
In 2011, it was estimated that one-in-four of all hardcover suspense/thriller novels sold was written by Patterson. He is the first author to achieve 10 million ebook sales, and he holds the Guinness record for the most No. 1 New York Times bestsellers of any author. And his success isn’t based solely on thrillers like the perennially popular Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club and Michael Bennett series; he is now also the current bestselling author in the young adult and middle grade categories.
Last year, Patterson gave the school $25,000 to implement a reading initiative to promote the joy of reading for middle school students. Pahokee Middle piloted a book club program
during and after school with 44 students who would read Suzanne Collins’ book, Hunger Games. The students read the books in book clubs of 12–15 students and have biweekly discussions with a mentor. The program became such a drawing card that students began to request entry into a club.
“We kept reading proficiency data on the students to see if this initiative would have any effect on the reading fluency of our students,” said Smith. “Ninety-six percent of our book club students made positive reading gains on the FCAT.” Based on student interest and performance of the pilot book clubs, the school decided to take the book club initiative school-wide in FY2014. There are now 21 book clubs with mentors who facilitate the book discussions twice each week.