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This year, put a 'Book on Every Bed'

DEAR READERS: This is one of my favorite days of the year, because this is the day I get to step out from behind my desk and advocate -- simply and sincerely -- for literacy. I choose this particular day because it is my mother's birthday. She was a reader, writer and teacher, and I can think of no better way to honor her memory than to ask other readers to participate in the "Book on Every Bed" project.

This is the fifth anniversary of my campaign to share a gift-giving tradition that is straightforward, inexpensive and reaps boundless and lifelong rewards.

A "borrowed" concept: Like all my best ideas, this was stolen (borrowed, really). Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough (author of the books "Truman," "John Adams" and many others) once related in an interview that every Christmas morning during his childhood, he and his siblings awoke to the gift of a wrapped book on their beds, delivered by Santa.

Thus was born "A Book on Every Bed." I have teamed with The Family Reading Partnership (familyreading.org) in my hometown of Ithaca, New York. With its help, this concept has spread through libraries, schools, churches and bookstores across this country and beyond.

Santa does the work: Here's how it happens: You take a book (it can be new or a favorite from your own childhood).

You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book where Santa can find it. When I communicated with David McCullough about borrowing his idea, he was very clear: Santa handles the delivery and places the book on a child's bed.

This idea is not limited to Christmas, of course. Going to bed with a new book on each night of Hanukkah (which ends this year on Christmas Eve) would be wonderful. The whole idea is to borrow this tradition and make it yours.

I know this for sure: No matter who you are or what you do, reading will unlock untold opportunities, mysteries and passions.

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