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James Patterson promotes literacy, indie booksellers in WNC

To call James Patterson prolific is almost an understatement. The man has written more than 100 books in his career.

But instead of sticking to bookstore visits and signings, Patterson has decided to put his bestselling name behind local, independent bookstores and get young people excited about reading.

This weekend, Patterson is in Asheville to help promote a couple of different causes in Western North Carolina.

In addition to writing books for all ages, Patterson has also started a website called Read Kiddo Read, which lists book recommendations by both reading level and genre.

Patterson says he’s trying to make it as easy as possible for parents to encourage their kids to love reading..

He says if kids don’t get to reading level in early elementary school, they run the risk of falling behind throughout their schooling years, and even into their careers.

And no one knows that better than Ashley Lasher. She’s the executive director for theLiteracy Council of Buncombe County, which is hosting Patterson Friday at their eighth annual Authors for Literacy event.

The Literacy Council of Buncombe County has served Western North Carolina for more than twenty years, and offers three programs.

The adult literacy program, which has been running the longest, is a tutoring system for adults who read write or spell below proficiency level.

Lasher says it’s hard for people who CAN read and write proficiently to imagine how those who CAN’T read and write get by in daily life.

And there’s such a stigma around literacy issues that many people keep their troubles a secret for as long as possible.

That’s why the participants in the Literacy Council’s adult program can be anonymous.

In a nationwide assessment of adult literacy from about ten years ago, researchers with the National Center for Education Statistics found that 1 in 10 adults in Western North Carolina struggles with reading, writing, and spelling and performs below a basic level.

And Lasher says that number rises in areas where poverty rates are higher.

In addition to helping adults read and write better, the Literacy Council also has an English for speakers of other languages program, and reading tutors for kids in elementary schools.

Friday's event is one of the Literacy Council’s main fundraisers each year. James Patterson is the keynote speaker. Then, Saturday evening, he signs books and meets readers at Malaprop’s bookstore in downtown Asheville.