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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Pen pals, old school style

June 11, 2008

On the last day of school, Anna came home with a stamped envelope from her kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Z had offered to be pen pals over the summer with kids from her class. By 4:00 that day (the last day of school, after getting home at 3:00), Anna had written her first pen pal letter.

"What are your plans for the summer? I plan to go to the pool. What do you like to do? It will be a fun summer." Off to the mailbox it went. Three days later, she got a letter back! Anna's reply is already off in the mail, and as I type this Anna is waiting by the mailbox in anticipation of a reply.

This whole thing made Molly desperate for her own pen pal! Thankfully we've got good friends in Oregon who have a daughter close to Molly's age. We’re meeting them at the beach in July; becoming pen pals with Ester is giving them a great opportunity to re-connect before we go.

I'm certainly not the first to realize the benefits of pen pals, although it has new meaning for us this summer. A quick Google search turned up many organizations that match kids for pen pals: Student Letter Exchange matches English speaking children ages 9-18, and the Circle of Friends Pen Pal Club enables girls 7-17 to email pen pals without the need to publish your email address.

For us, we'll do the old-fashioned method — "snail mail" to a person we already know. During our trip to the library yesterday I picked up Arthur's Pen Pal to keep the buzz alive…and we got out some of our other books that have letters in them: Dear Tooth Fairy, and Jolly Christmas Postman.

Our site has a helpful article about letter writing and Great Schools has a good summary of the ways that pen pals mix learning and fun.

How about you? Are you planning to have a pen pal this summer? Consider this blog one way to do it!

Comments

I can't seem to get my boys interested in carrying on our family pen pal tradition. My mother was pen pals with Pat in England when they were girls, then Pat's daughter Alison and I were pen pals. I'd love for my son to write to Alison's, but can't seem to get the boys interested. Any ideas for getting the boys hooked?

Are Alison's boys in England? If so, it might be fun to do a letter exchange that highlights the differences between the two places: our country is run by...., a gallon of gas costs...., our high temperature today was...., we think Harry Potter is....After they got through the differences, they could start on similarities! It might also be fun to include some artifact from their daily life in the envelope - a favorite pool toy, a coin, an ad for their favorite movie...anything sound worth exploring?

Last year I implemented a pen pal program with college students who were involved in service organizations on their campus. My students and their college buddies loved the project. The students had a reason to write, were writing more and were linked with someone who was inspiring them to seek higher education. The project ended with a field trip to the university to tour the campus and meet their pen pal!

A friend of mine has blocked time out each Sunday afternoon for her sons to handwrite a letter. The letter can be to anyone.Lots of folks have posted facebook updates on how fun it was to get snail mail letters from the two cute boys.

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