Mar. 29, 2021 -- Everyone knows the joy of receiving a personal letter or card in the mail, especially at times of isolation. RoxEl parent Tina Emancipator figured she could bring that joy to her children and their classmates by organizing a pen pal program. “It started with a conversation with my daughter’s first grade teacher,” said Ms. Emancipator, and has now grown to include children from kindergarten through 5th grades.
For the first round, fourteen 1st graders signed up to be matched with another student in their grade. Ms. Emancipator created packets for each one including an instruction sheet, the address of their pen pal, and two stamped envelopes. “I wanted to make it as easy and low-key for families as possible,” she said. “No one should have to go searching for stamps or envelopes.”
The students were encouraged to send two letters or drawings to their pen pal over a period of a few months. Several weeks in, Ms. Emancipator and another parent purchased cards from Mac’s Backs Bookstore (“We wanted to support a local business”) to send notes home to each child who signed up. This served multiple purposes: It was a gentle reminder to write their letters, it made them excited to get mail, and it guaranteed that every child would receive at least one thing in their mailbox on the off-chance their assigned partner forgot.
The program was such a success that Ms. Emancipator brought the idea to the building PTA who jumped at the opportunity to participate. They purchased stamps and mailed packets to the over 40 children who signed up for a pen pal within their building. “There’s lots of learning involved,” said Ms. Emancipator. “Everything from the act of writing the letter to how to address an envelope.” But mostly it’s just a really nice way to keep the kids socially connected and engaged with each other and their school community.