Pen Pal Palooza is a fun and exciting way to build literacy skills, learn about different cultures/perspectives, and create lifelong connections.
As a parent, I have always been amazed at my children's enthusiasm for checking the mail.
It's important to note - I am not the mom that get's constant deliveries or cool stuff in the mail... To be honest, I'm usually the one sending out all of the cool stuff... All I ever get is bills and brouchures. 🤧
Despite this, my kids still love checking the mail every day. They rush out to the mailbox after school, each taking turns opening it and peering inside.
Even when the mailbox is empty, they don't seem to mind. They still love the routine of checking it, the act of opening and closing the door, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, there will be something for them one day.
I eventually came to realize that for my kids, checking the mail is not about receiving physical items, but about the anticipation and excitement of the unknown. It's a simple routine that brings them joy and a sense of responsibility, as they feel like they are taking part in an important daily task.
And then, last summer, while brainstorming ways to keep my children engaged and excited about reading - it clicked! How cool would it be if they were able to write and receive letters from children their same age... Talk about a win/win/win!
As a Miami native, and current Atlanta resident, I could think of at least five friends in Florida with kids who would love to do this with me... right?
So boom. I put everything together. I created the letter writing templates... I found a bunch of videos on YouTube (which by the way took WAY LONGER than I thought it would)... I even created a Facebook group and downloaded this cool app to coordinate it all so all parents would have to do it work with their children and put the letters in the mail.
While putting together this program, I learned so much about how letter writing not only helped kids improve with literacy - it also provides social skills and other life lessons. Like did you know having a pen pal provides global awareness, and teaches patience, empathy and independence.
I didn't even consider how the different writing styles that come with letter writing provides a deeper level of reading comprehension. Or how receiving a letter from someone older can expand my child's vocabulary and communication skills!
So... Are you wondering what happened when the program finally launched? Two out of three of my kids never received a single letter back, even after sending over a few. The same happened to one of my friends and her daughter and I was crushed at the disappointment she shared because I thought everyone was on the same page.
So, I had my two oldest write another letter and we created this video... in hopes to make amends. (Cue in empathy and add in a little creativity)
Let's be clear. Although I had the best intentions... creating this program was far from easy, there was definitely a learning curve. I remember arguing with my aunt, I am not a teacher - I am a social worker. I wanted to provide the resources... but instead I found myself standing in front of my kids summer camp classroom, facilitating the lesson and hoping they would go home and beg their parents to sign them up for Pen Pal Palooza.🤞
And remember when I said, two of my kids never received a letter back? Well, initially, I had no intention of including my son that's in PreK with this literacy activity. After watching my daughter complete Kindergarten online due to Covid, I already knew how challenging it was to teach a 5 year old how to read. But someone who also had a 5 year old, convinced me to partner their child with mine... and then they ghosted us. But that didn't take away from the pride my son felt when writing his letter and mailing it off at the post office. I had to remind myself, that my kids just loved the idea of doing something so "grown up" that they were willing to forgive the things that went wrong in the process.
Needless to say, THIS Summer... We are excited (and ready) to take letter writing to another level. We are going to hold each other accountable and SHOW UP for our children!
Stay tuned... And if you haven't already looked it up, the term "palooza" is often used to describe a large and lively gathering or celebration, so "Pen Pal Palooza" is another one of Celebrate Legacy's fun and festive events, this time centered around pen pal writing.