Dear Readers: To mark and celebrate the start of a new year, I'm including some recent reader responses that I have found particularly touching, wise and useful. I learn so much from my readers!

I sincerely hope that the year 2021 is one of peace, health, and goodwill to all. We could all use a break.

A great story

Dear Amy: Your literacy campaign to put "A Book on Every Bed" really touched my heart.

I am a retired teacher of 38 years and the greatest accomplishment of my teaching career was reading to my students every day.

The children would immediately quiet down and sit in their seats because they didn't want to miss a word. It was magical!

The best crowd control and discipline is a good book.

I taught special needs children, first, third and fourth grade during my career, and a good book never failed.

I also read to my own three children almost every night through their elementary years. Now that they are in their 30s, they have often said that these were some of their favorite childhood memories.

Thank you so much for raising awareness about the power of books.

Amy says: This is beautiful!

A father's wisdom

Dear Amy: Here's a suggestion for children who feel their parents prefer one of their siblings over them.

I remember as a 13-year-old once telling my dad that I felt that he treated me differently than my younger siblings.

This was his response: "You are absolutely right. I do treat you differently and I realize that sometimes it may seem like I expect more from you than I do your sister or brother. That's because you have different skills, talents and needs than they do. In some areas, you are stronger and more capable than your siblings, and in other areas your siblings are. And you may not notice when I try to help you through those. But I do not love you any less and you are just as important to me."

Even more capable, successful and financially comfortable children need to hear that they are equally loved by their parents.

Amy says: Dad was wise.

Fun cleanup advice

Dear Amy: A reader complained about being left to clean up alone after Thanksgiving.

My family handles it in a way that's fun and fair.

Before dinner, each guest draws a folded piece of paper from a jar with a cleanup chore written on it. There are two identical papers for each job. (Clear table, rinse dishes, put away leftovers, etc.)

When dinner is finished you find the person who has the same job as yourself and complete it together.

It's actually great fun because you are usually with someone you haven't had a "working relationship" with.

Lots of laughing and casual conversation takes place over each segment of cleanup. And the person who hosted does NOT set foot in the kitchen until it's all spic and span.

Amy says: "Gamifying" chores makes you forget that they are chores. This is genius.

Send Ask Amy questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.