Will you be my pen pal?

As you may have gathered I love the Peanuts comic strip. I’ve been reading it since I was a child and was sad when it ended. Shulz had recurring storylines and one I’ve always enjoyed was Charlie Brown writing to his pen pal. Sometimes the humor was about  Charlie Brown’s use of pen vs pencil, but sometimes Shulz conveyed profound thoughts.

I think Charlie Brown was on to something. A back and forth of letters allows us to learn about each other, to share things we might not be comfortable saying out loud. And the more we know about someone the easier it is to understand them-to not hate them.

Charlie Brown’s pen pal was in another country, but pen pals in our own country might help us overcome our differences. I love the idea of students writing to other students. It works on writing skills, communication and social skills. It could be in the same district, town, state or different state or region of the country. Sometimes we forget how much we have in common.

I’m thinking adults need pen pals too. After all children are more likely to do as we do! To that end I write a letter to my grandkids each week. At age 2 and 5 months they don’t write back yet, but I hope someday. I know we’ll learn a lot about each other that way.

Here’s a book showing the benefits of a school-to-school pen pal project.

Dear Dragon
By Josh Funk
Illustrated by Rodolfo Motalvo
2016 Viking

Two teachers announce, in their respective schools, a pen pal poetry project. Students write to each other all year . In June there will be a picnic where they will meet. George is a human and Blaise is a dragon, but they don’t know that. When each receives their letter they picture what is happening from their perspective. So when the dragon mentions skydiving the human pictures himself with a parachute. Before the picnic they decide to keep writing to each other. At first they are surprised they are different species, but then friends. That was the teachers plan all along!

If you start a pen pal project I’d love to hear about it-and you!

Author: Holly Niner

Holly Niner is the author of No More Noisy Nights illustrated by Guy Wolek, and The Day I Ran Away illustrated by Isabella Ongaro. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines, and her previous picture books were award winners. Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD, received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome, was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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