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james-pattersonNEW YORK: Prolific novelist James Patterson has raised the stakes on what it means to be a modern-day publisher, again, and this time he is doing it for one of his passions- getting kids to read.

The bestselling author, who most often is equated with being at the forefront of mass market fiction's dominance of the publishing industry, has this week for the first time released two books on the same day in the United States one aimed at adults and the second for kids.

The idea, he said, is that parents will enter a book store, physical or online to buy his new suspense novel, "Now You See Her," and might also pick up his newest fiction for young readers, "Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life."

Some fans will likely praise Patterson for upping his push to get American kids reading more. But there is little doubt that skeptics may think it a clever plot to boost book sales.

Patterson, who began his career as an advertising guru before becoming a novelist, is a certifiable entertainment mogul. He is responsible for a record 45 New York Times hardcover No. 1s with 230 million copies sold worldwide.

Yet, he says this week's dual-book publishing ploy is not about sales but about exposing kids to novels. And he claims his 17 young reader books show he is serious about kids, young adult books and reading.

"I am obsessed with it," said the 64-year-old who launched his website readkiddoread.com in 2008 to help parents pick kids' books. "It's a huge, huge problem in this country and probably all other countries. But we have millions of kids in this country who have never read a book in their life."

Indeed, one in six U.S. children does not read proficiently by the time they reach the end of third grade, according to the non-profit group Children's Literacy Initiative.

His latest novel for youngsters, "Middle School," which was co-written with Chris Tebbetts, is his first book to target middle-grade kids. It aims to be a funny look at classes through the eyes of a boy called Rafe, coping with bullying, crushes and family changes, complete with wacky illustrations.

Copyright Reuters, 2011

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