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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "D.W. in Reno, Nev." about giving needy children books for the holidays caught my attention. I would like to tell D.W. about Rolling Readers, California's largest nonprofit children's literacy organization. It was started in 1961 by a father, who -- after noticing the profound effects of reading aloud to his sons -- volunteered to read to kids at a homeless shelter. The experience was very rewarding (as I can attest, because I am a Rolling Reader volunteer), and it took only an hour per week. And after that, he began recruiting others with a love of books, reading and children.

We volunteers go to our assigned schools (or other locations, such as homeless shelters) once a week and read aloud to one or more classes. Three times a year we have a Book Give-Away when each child gets his or her own new book.

We hope that by reading aloud to children, we will help them to learn to read; and that, by giving them books of their own, they will learn to love reading. I always tell my "story children" that education is one of the most important gifts of life, and the key to a good education is reading. Besides, it's fun!

Children love to hear stories, but they are thrilled to have their own books. "I don't have to bring it back, Miss Mary Ann? You mean I can keep it?" I am often asked by children who never before owned a book. It's been four years since my first Book Give-Away, and kids stop me on the playground and tell me they still have the first book I gave them.

Abby, I hope you will let your readers know about Rolling Readers. -- MISS MARY ANN, VOLUNTEER, BRADDOCK DRIVE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, SANTA MONICA, CALIF.

DEAR MISS MARY ANN: I'm pleased to inform my readers about this worthwhile project. Your letter reminds me of the poem:

"Richer than I you will never be,

"For I had a mother who read to me."

Although Rolling Readers is a California project -- it's the largest nonprofit children's literacy organization in the state -- there is no reason why it can't be replicated in every community where there are concerned adults willing to give their time. Rolling Readers represents a most noble form of diversity: They are black, white, yellow and brown; college students and retirees; executives and actors; homemakers and cab drivers; Republicans and Democrats.

For more information about this worthwhile effort, contact: Rolling Readers, P.O. Box 927315, San Diego, Calif. 92192-7315, or call 1-800-390-READ or 619-738-7243. They will help you volunteer, start a volunteer team or start a local chapter.

DEAR ABBY: Recently you printed a letter from a hospital volunteer who asked that mail for patients be addressed with their legal (first, middle and last) names, not nicknames.

Perhaps this hint will also help your readers when they address cards to people who are hospitalized: Instead of your own return address, use the patient's home address.

If the person is discharged before the mail arrives at the hospital (which is often the case), the card will be delivered to his/her home, rather than coming back to you. -- ELSIE PRIBULA, BETHLEHEM, PA.

DEAR ELSIE: Several readers offered this tip, which I think is excellent. I'm pleased to share it.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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