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If publishers worry that they are losing their next generation of readers to video games and computers, a new book, "Dear Author," to be published next month by Conari Press in California, may dispel some concerns.

The book, a collection of 75 letters from junior high and high school students, is the result of a two-year contest in which students across the country were asked to write about books that changed their lives."Dear Carl Lewis," wrote Kathleen Niblett from San Luis Obispo, Calif. "Well, I'm in school now and back on track. Last year I dropped out. Thanks to your book, `Inside Track,' I was given the inspiration to, as you put it, `look forward.'

"Sports has always been my life. It was the only thread I had to hang on to. I don't have a team or a coach, only my little brother, Michael.

"We play in the same way you did by setting up track meets in our yard."

Andrea Urbiel, a student from Detroit, wrote to Shel Silverstein:

"We've been everywhere with you. We've built the treehouse, the free house, the secret-you-and-me house. We did the home-made boat. We've been acrobats. We've had gashes and rashes and purple bumps."

"I find more wisdom and more life in a poem written on the neck of a running giraffe than in many of my long-winded textbooks. So, Shel Silverstein, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

And to Maya Angelou, Sherry Cox, a student in Puerto Rico, wrote, "I would like nothing more than to walk with you to that old water well and have a cup of cold water . . . and talk about family, togetherness, and trust and about our future as a nation."

"Thank you for sharing your life with us," she concluded. "And I really do understand why a caged bird sings."