Dec. 11, 2013

Best-selling author James Patterson creates Geneseo scholarships

Patterson scholars

Author James Patterson sent autographed copies of his latest children's novel, "Treasure Hunters," to the eight Geneseo students awarded James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships. Pictured here with Anjoo Sikka, dean of the Ella Cline Shear School of Education, are: front row , left to right: Marissa Liberati; Jessica Stoneham; Melissa Bellonte and Kelsey Horan. Back row, left to right: Hannah Pettengill; Kristen Bondi; Dean Sikka; Haley Hilgenberg and Ashley Hark. /PHOTO BY KRIS DREESSEN

Best-selling author James Patterson has written more than 100 books, but has said he was a reluctant reader as a child. It wasn't until college, when he could read what interested him, that he found its joy. Now, Patterson has created a scholarship program in the Ella Cline Shear School of Education to support aspiring teachers in promoting the importance of literacy in education.James Patterson

This year, eight graduate students earning a master's degree in literacy received a $6,000 James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship. Next year, the Patterson Family Foundation will award the scholarships to full-time incoming freshmen intending to seek teacher certification, with the possibility of renewal through graduation.

"I've been looking to bring these scholarships to more schools, and after studying a number of institutions and programs, I found Geneseo to be a great addition," said Patterson, who writes mysteries and also children's books. "My passion is to get more and more kids excited about reading, and training the next generation of great teachers is essential to that mission."

Geneseo scholarship recipients this year are: Melissa Bellonte, Kristen Bondi, Ashley Hark, Hayley Hilgenberg, Kelsey Horan, Marissa Liberati, Hannah Pettengill and Jessica Stoneham. Patterson sent each of them an autographed copy of his latest children's novel, "Treasure Hunters," and included a note that he was "thrilled that future teachers like you will help instill a lifelong love of reading in children."

"We are very honored that James Patterson has included Geneseo in his literacy initiative," said Anjoo Sikka, dean of the School of Education. "Exciting kids about books and reading is crucial to their success as readers, thinkers and keen observers and, ultimately, to become self-actualized and effective participants in our society. The scholarships will help us attract talented students with the kind of passion that drives Mr. Patterson. I sincerely commend him for his vision and am grateful for his contribution to the preparation of literacy teachers at SUNY Geneseo."

Patterson Scholarship recipients were selected on the basis of academic performance and an essay describing how they would apply what they have learned to help children develop a lifelong passion for reading. Applications were reviewed by a committee of faculty led by Susan Salmon, assistant professor and coordinator of graduate programs in the School of Education.

"Reading comes first," said Liberati. "It is the compass by which we explore and map all other literacies — digital or not — and only by reading can we and our students become and continue to be lifelong learners."