When UF College of Education administrators asked author James Patterson for $3 million to start a literacy program, he agreed — but with a challenge.

The donation was announced Monday along with Patterson’s challenge to use the money to double the state of Florida’s child literacy rate, said Holly Lane, a UF professor of special education.

Lane will lead the James Patterson Literacy Challenge, which aims to double the number of children in Florida who can read proficiently, she said.

“I think that the doors that having him associated with the program opens are really fantastic,” Lane said.

The program will include a website with content that teachers can use to practice reading and will work directly with local schools to improve their reading education, Lane said.

“We’re really customizing the professional development to fit the school’s needs, and that’s pretty unique,” Lane said.

Vivian Gonsalves, a UF clinical assistant professor, works with the teachers hired through the project. She said they are working with Alachua County schools to see which schools would benefit most from the program.

The project organizers hope to expand the program to four or five other school districts across the state by next year, Gonsalves said.

“My biggest hope is that we can put in the hands of teachers techniques and teaching methods that can really help kids learn to read,” Gonsalves said.

Contact Robert Lewis at rlewis@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Lewis__Robert.