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You’ve got to hand it to best-selling author James Patterson: he is doing his part to get young people to read. He’d already put $1.5 million into student scholarships and essay competitions, then set aside $1 million to help independent bookstores.

Now he is bankrolling the 2-million-hits-per-month website ReadKiddoRead.com, which profiles high-interest books. Asked about what’s at stake, Patterson minces no words: “I’m here to save lives.”

Strong words. But Patterson should know: he is a one-man publishing empire, author of youth and young adult classics such as Maximum Ride, Alex Cross and, most recently, Treasure Hunters and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. He knows his audience — and is alarmed. “There are…millions of kids in this country who’ve never read a book they like,” he told Kirkus magazine.

Patterson knows what dangers loom for those who hate to read: “[I]t’s going to be hellish…to get through high school, and…[get] jobs and a life that has some satisfaction.”

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Holidays 2013 Survival Kit Image4

Ah, the holidays.

There are any versions of cherishing the holidays as there are families. They may watch (for the 27th time!) Ralphie’s quest for an air rifle in A Christmas Story or George’s redemption in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Never any shortage of baked goods around this time, either. If a tree is involved, out come dusty boxes of ornaments and in comes a five foot evergreen. Others will light the Menorah to celebrate Hanukkah. It’s all good.

But the holidays also bring something which strikes fear into the hearts of parents: Children with no school to go to!  A few hours of TV-movie nostalgia and cookie-munching and tree decorating may not be enough. Where to find things for them to do, watch, listen to, and — yes, even over the holidays — read?

Here. Video games help the holidays speed by. If the holidays are a “blast your enemies”-free zone, maybe they’d go for electronic hockey or Sims or Diego. If blasting is allowed, they could get in touch with their inner Harry Potter. A little laid-back wizarding — in Kinect, Wii, Playstation 3, Nintendo DS, or Xbox — might be just the thing.

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