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  • Writer's pictureAshley

Bring Back the Pen Pals!

Did you have a pen pal when you were a kid? I did! Our class did a pen pal exchange program with a class in China. I remember learning how to pronounce my pal's name, seeing a picture of her at school, and spending an entire year anxiously awaiting our next set of letters. I also wrote to my grandma, aunts, and cousins spread out across the country. I have nothing but fond memories of pen pals. Yet, I know many children don't even know what that means.

I propose that we bring back the pen pal, whether in snail mail or e-mail form! Who's with me??

Seriously though, having a pen pal helps children to grow and practice many skills.

  • Handwriting or typing

  • Composing

  • Reciprocal conversation

  • Patience (waiting on a response)

  • Cultural awareness

  • Reading

  • Building connections and fostering friendships

All of these skills will positively impact your child's academic abilities, but they will barely realize that they are practicing.

So where do you find pen pals these days?

One option is to start closest to home and take a look at relatives or close family friends. Do you have grandparents or cousins who live far away? What about old neighbors? You also have the option of writing to family members who live fairly close but that you don't see every day. It is not necessarily about the distance, but about the experience.

Another option is to look to groups within the United States. For this, I recommend looking for Facebook groups that match what you are looking for. You will find some large company pages, along with some smaller groups you can join or reach out to. I would also suggest asking about pen pals in parenting groups you may belong to. If they are nationwide groups, you may get a response from someone on the other side of the country!

A third option is to use some of the larger companies that have been around for years. You can find many of them through your Facebook search. These companies can connect you with kids in other countries so that your child gets to learn about different cultures, languages, and traditions. Many students in other countries of the world are looking to practice their English skills, as well as the above-mentioned ones.

Finally, if you are feeling uncertain or do not have family and friends available, I would suggest reaching out to your child's teacher and asking them if they have ever considered a whole-class exchange. Of course, this adds more work to their plate (and you could possibly offer to help). However, it may be a great way to help your child and a whole classroom full of others.

So, how do you go about choosing the best option?

The answer is based on what you are most comfortable with. Are you okay with your child writing letters or emails to a child in another country? Have you vetted the website you are thinking of signing them up for? Or would you rather be safe and keep it to family only? Once you have made this decision, then I would give your child(ren) the next choice. Ask them if they would like to write to a family member or someone in particular, maybe they want to talk to a child in a new country. Maybe they want to email and not write letters. While I'm not suggesting they get to make all of the decisions, I do encourage you to give them some choices. It will greatly impact their desire and "buy-in" about the whole thing.

I will rest my case with this: Our children need ways to practice their skills that are fun and engaging. What is more fun and engaging than making a new friend while you learn? For those anxious kiddos, this gives them a less vulnerable way to practice these skills. Give it a try! Encourage it! Let your children see YOU writing letters and emails to people. Let's bring back the pen pals together.

**Make sure that you do your research before giving out important and personal information to anyone and remember to keep an eye on any communication happening between your child and someone you do not know. Always better safe than sorry!

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1 comentario

04 jun 2021

I think this is a wonderful idea. I had a pen pal when I was growing up. It was exciting checking the mail.

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