my first letter from my pen pal

Last week I wrote my little cousin Robbie Lee and asked him if he wanted to be my pen pal. I was so excited when I received my first letter in the mail today. I thought that I recognized the envelope in the mail even though Henry tried to hide it under the junk mail. It’s always thrilling to find something personal in the mail. Well, I received a great letter and these drawings of some pretty happy people on the back. I can’t wait to send Robbie Lee his next letter. I hope to find a great new book at the Book Expo this weekend to include in his package. Maybe that will give us something to write about.

Last year I participated in a literacy project called In2Books, which is based in Washington, DC. I loved this unique volunteer opportunity. I had two pen pals that I emailed throughout the school year. I received a book in the mail and we would write about different concepts. It was a lot of fun to read the letters from my two pen pals, Stuart and Hannah, to see what they were thinking. They would even draw me pictures, especially Stuart who loves to draw comics. The first mailing includes an introductory letter with a visual profile. I made a collage of all my favorite things that I would want to share with these second graders. From there we would discuss various books and questions asked in each letter.

Unfortunately I received an email last spring saying that the project had been put on hold for a year. So I am hoping that some miracle funding will land in the In2Books plates. I can see this program being implemented all over the US. It is extremely scalable and incredibly valuable. All you need are the willing adults with internet access and a participating school. During my graduate school studies, I discovered that literacy is the most important element to being creative. So knowing how to read and write is crucial. It is so intricately intertwined with creativity.

The In2Books experience has given me some good ideas of things I can do with Robbie Lee. I am planning on putting together a packet of pre-addressed envelopes and stationery. Maybe I will include a large sheet of paper to make a collage for a visual profile. Maybe I will send him a book about Washington, DC so that he can learn more about where I live. I think that it will be a lot of fun. The key is making it meaningful without it being too much work for either one of us.

My first pen pal was Sarah Simms, from some province in Canada. I met her when I was probably 8 or 9 while on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. She was a few years younger than me. I remember receiving her letters, which had been written on Winnie the Pooh stationery with the help of her dad. An elementary school picture of Sarah in a burgundy corduroy jumper usually shows up at some point whenever I go through my unorganized collection of childhood pictures. I wonder what Sarah is up to now.

So who can be your pen pal? And email doesn’t count.

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