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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am the father you mentioned who loved reading aloud to my children so much that I started Rolling Readers. It is now California's largest nonprofit children's literacy organization. We were proud to see the letter from Miss Mary Ann detailing her joy as a volunteer reading to her "story children" each week, and the satisfaction she receives when she gives them new books three times a year during our "book giveaways."

The response from Dear Abby readers across the United States and Canada has been unbelievable. We have received more than 10,000 calls and letters from people who wish to volunteer, and individuals and groups who are eager to start a local chapter of Rolling Readers in their communities. Already chapters are forming in St. Louis, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tampa, New York, Chicago, and dozens of smaller communities.

Reading aloud to youngsters is such a simple yet profound way to share our love of books and reading. Over the years we have been inspired by the quality of volunteers willing to spend an hour each week helping to create "reading and caring communities." They include socially conscious high school students, police detectives, judges, retirees and homemakers. They share our alarm that there is a crisis in our country.

For 30 years our society has grown increasingly less literate, with the biggest decline occurring in those needy children already struggling near the bottom. These Rolling Readers understand that this crisis needs to be solved in a typically American fashion -- individually, by thousands of concerned citizens willing to give of their time to make a difference in the lives of these children.

Abby, thank you for spreading this important message. We would also like to thank the thousands of your readers who have sent letters or called to volunteer. Together we are creating "reading and caring communities" across the country. After all, a love of children and a love of books go hand in hand. -- ROBERT CONDON, ROLLING READERS USA

DEAR MR. CONDON: I'm delighted that your worthwhile organization struck such a responsive chord with my readers. America's most precious resource is our children, and literacy is the first step in preparing them to lead productive lives. I wish you and your dedicated volunteers continued success in this important effort.

DEAR ABBY: Often, when my husband and I are in a conversation with another couple, something happens that really "bugs" me. The other couple both start talking at once, the woman to me and the man to my husband. It's impossible to listen to both and I have to choose.

Obviously, if I listen to the man I'll be rude to the woman. Sometimes I'm more interested in the conversation the man and my husband are having. What can I do? I feel like throwing up my hands and leaving the room. What could I say? -- FRUSTRATED IN CANADA

DEAR FRUSTRATED: The next time it happens, smile at the woman and say, "Just a moment, if you don't mind; I'd like to hear this ..."

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY IRISH FRIENDS: On this St. Patrick's Day, may I extend this Irish blessing to you:

May you never forget

What is worth remembering

Or remember what is best forgotten.

P.S. Have a joyous St. Patrick's Day. If you're drinking, don't drive. And if you're driving, don't drink.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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