Campus & Community

Patterson talks literacy, arts during STEAM luncheon

Suzanne Boyd interviews James Patterson. Click the image to view more photos.

With 147 novels published, it’s no wonder that the world’s best-selling author, James Patterson, writes all day, every day.

“I love it,” Patterson told the crowd of more than 540 Wednesday as the guest speaker at Palm Beach State College’s 7th annual STEAM luncheon. “Writing to me is an opportunity to share my truth either realistically or symbolically as to how I view the world.”

The event, chaired by south Florida businesswoman and philanthropist Yvonne Boice and presented by Bank of America, has raised $250,000 in cash and pledges for STEAM scholarships with ongoing initiatives.

Veteran News Anchor Suzanne Boyd served as the moderator for the affair, which was held at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts. The back wall in the Cohen Pavilion was draped with a gigantic image of a library full of book shelves, which Patterson jokingly referred to as his den. Patterson’s novels were also showcased as centerpieces at each of the 55 tables.

“I am stunned by Palm Beach State,” said Patterson, who referred to the College as a gem in Palm Beach County. “What they have done is really impressive. I can tell these are smart people.”

Patterson, who still writes using a No. 2 pencil always hoping that his next book will be his best yet, spoke about his successful career, the importance of STEAM education, his writing techniques, childhood, advice for young authors, and his passion, which he says has gotten more intense over the years, to help children learn to read.

“The percentage of kids reading at grade level in Florida is about 43 percent,” Patterson said. “If we can move Florida up into the 70s, it will save lives.”

This is something he reminds teachers, librarians and other groups everywhere he speaks—that when they help children read, everyone wins.

“A piece of the problem is that teachers teach reading but a lot of them have not been taught how to teach reading. It’s not that they are not great teachers and terrific human beings. It’s just that there are some tricks to make learning to read better that they need to apply.”

Teachers play a role, however, Patterson strongly believes it’s not their primary responsibility to teach children to read. “It’s the responsibility of the parents,” said Patterson.

When Patterson found his own son, Jack, didn’t have much interest in reading at age 7, he and his wife, Sue, went out and bought him a dozen books to read over the summer.

When Jack asked if he had to read them, Patterson joked, “Yes, unless you want to live in the garage.”

Patterson says by the end of that summer, Jack was a good reader, and he now encourages parents and grandparents to do the same.

“If they’re not a confident reader, how are they going to get through high school and into college,” Patterson asked.

When children do become confident readers and go to colleges, he says it’s important for them to continue to learn the arts.

“Even if your thing is something else like science it’s important to stay creative. There are a lot of things that the arts bring to the table which are really useful to people in science and math and other disciplines. The arts can especially help pre-med students and doctors relate better with their patients,” Patterson said.

As the luncheon closed, Boyd asked Patterson which character out of his novels he relates to the most.

“I relate a little bit with Alex Cross. He’s really family oriented and has this struggle with balancing work and home life.”

The STEAM luncheon is part of PBSC’s STEAM initiative, which aims to impact the projected shortage of local, skilled professionals in STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

Goals for the initiative include increasing student scholarships, business partnerships, internships and other academic program enhancements to prepare more graduates for these high-wage, high demand positions.

“To date, we have given scholarships to hundreds of students, allowing them to write a much different scenario for their lives than they had ever imagined,” Boice told the crowd. “Thank you all for supporting STEAM and for giving our students the chance to be the hero of their own stories.”

Sponsors for the luncheon were Bank of America, ideabar, CIBC Private Wealth Management, Kaufman Lynn Construction, Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivy & Fronrath, Modernizing Medicine, OXIO Health, Inc., Pratt & Whitney, PNC, Tripp Electric Motors, Hardrives, Inc., Office Depot, McDonald’s Group, Merrill Lynch – Sardinha & Adair Group, 107.9FM and 97.9FM WRMF, Art Hive Magazine, the Palm Beach Post, and South Florida PBS.

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Click below for more photos of the luncheon.

2019 PBSC STEAM Luncheon

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