James Patterson urges more dads to read to children

Duchess of Cornwall and James Patterson Patterson was joined by Booktrust patron the Duchess of Cornwall at the launch

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Bestselling author James Patterson has joined the Duchess of Cornwall at the launch of a campaign to encourage more fathers to read to their children.

A poll, on behalf of reading charity Booktrust, revealed that only one in eight dads are the main family reader.

"If I can help dads to understand their role in making books and reading more important in children's lives, I'll be a happy man," said Patterson.

Reading, he added can "open up a whole world of possibility to them".

"I believe that dads have a huge role to play in encouraging their children to read," he said at the launch of Booktrust's Get Dads Reading campaign, at a library in London.

The US author, who regularly tops library lending in the UK, is a founding partner of a fund run by the Booktrust to get disadvantaged children reading.

Arguably best known for his thrillers featuring detective Alex Cross, Patterson has been writing children's books since 2005 - prompted by the desire to get his own son interested in reading.

His Maximum Ride and Daniel X series have proved bestseller with children and adults alike. His most recent book in the teenage-focused Middle School series is released in the US next month.

"We are here to save lives - that's my role - because if you cannot read your life will be severely disadvantaged," he told a fathers' reading group in Greenwich, London.

James Patterson and his son Patterson turned to children's writing to encourage his son to read more

"This is not about reading Charles Dickens or Shakespeare, but learning to read with confidence - if you can do that you can make your way through school, college and work.

"America is ahead in getting kids to read, the UK is behind America - something's going wrong here."

The Booktrust poll reveals that only 13% of fathers in the UK take the lead with reading to their children. A quarter of fathers blame working late for not reading to their children.

Further research, commissioned by the charity from the Institute of Education, suggests many fathers see reading as a female domain. When they do read to their children, fathers favour their daughters over their sons, reading to them for longer, and more often.

"The most crucial thing for dads to understand is that if kids see their dads reading they're more likely to enjoy it themselves," said Viv Bird, chief executive of Booktrust.

"There is evidence that boys are slipping further behind girls in reading - and this emphasises how important it is that dads are positive role models to their sons as well as their daughters when it comes to reading."

Patterson, who was named Children's Choice Book Award Author of the Year in 2010, has sold an estimated 260 million copies of his books worldwide.

The 65-year-old novelist has created the website ReadKiddoRead to help fathers find interesting books to read to their children.

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