Mrs. Dalloway's books
Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore: has just received a James Patterson grant. Photo: Frances Dinkespiel
Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore: has just received a James Patterson grant. Photo: Frances Dinkespiel

Every kindergarten and first grade teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District will soon have the opportunity to buy $100 worth of books, thanks to an offer made by Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore and the best-selling author James Patterson.

The bookstore at 2904 College Ave. applied for a grant from Patterson to distribute gift certificates to teachers. It learned this week it had gotten $8,500, according to Marion Abbott, one of the store’s owners. That means 85 teachers will get $100 apiece.

“It’s very exciting,” said Abbott. “Unlike some book stores that are putting in new floors or buying vans, we are putting the money into teachers’ hands. I think it is really going to make a difference.”

The idea to apply for a grant for teachers came from Ann Whaling, the store’s children’s book buyer. She has worked closely with teachers over the years and noticed how they rarely had the funds to get all the books they wanted.

“I see the need every day,” Whaling said in a press release. “Teachers bring stacks of books to the cash register and ask for the total. Invariably, they’ve gone over budget, and I watch them dig into their own pockets to make up the difference. This grant will allow them to spark and nourish the love of reading in Berkeley’s youngest readers.”

Mrs. Dalloway’s will send packets of the gift certificates this week to Berkeley’s elementary schools, where the principals will distribute them, said Abbott.

“I think it is great,” said Karen Hemphill, a school board member “Anything we can do to advance literacy is wonderful. While we have great librarians and … guided reading lists, there is always the opportunity to get something of your very own that is special.”

Patterson, who has sold more than 300 million books, has been on a mission to improve literacy, make reading fun for kids, and to help independent bookstores flourish. He set up the Read Kiddo Read website to suggest good books for children. He has given away millions in grants to bookstores around the country, including  $1 million in 2014.

Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue received a James Patterson grant of $7,000 in in June 2014. Doris Moskowitz, the owner, used the funds to upgrade the shelving in the children’s book area and make other much-needed repairs.

The grant to Mrs. Dalloway’s is in the third round of grants Patterson has given out. Other northern California recipients include Books, Inc., which has a branch in Berkeley, City Lights Books in San Francisco, The Reading Bug in San Carlos, and Towne Center Books in Pleasanton.

Helping out teachers fits in with Mrs. Dalloway’s philosophy of connecting with the Berkeley community, said Abbott. The store hosts an annual three-day fundraising weekend late in the fall and donates 20% of the net proceeds back to the schools. Last year the weekend, and the corresponding donation, reached an all-time high, according to the press release.

Ironically, Patterson’s books don’t sell particularly well in Berkeley, according to Moskowitz. Patterson writes thrillers, many featuring the psychologist Alex Cross, as well as books for children, including “House of Robots”, “Treasure Hunters,” “Middle School,” “I Funny,” and “Maximum Ride.”

Abbott said she does not read Patterson’s books, but now that he has given a grant to Mrs. Dalloway’s, she intends to pick one up.

Moe’s Books gets $7,000 from author James Patterson (6.11.14)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...