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Youth meet ‘Pen Friends’ at Madison Public Library

MADISON – Email, texts, Twitter or Insta-Whatever’s popular today . . . Technology has zapped intrapersonal interaction in many ways. However, Madison Public Library sponsors a program for youth to write as a “Pen Friend.”

Pen Friends materialized after Librarian I Amelia Parkes received a phone call from the Assistant Director and Head of Youth Services for the Ransom District Library in Plainwell, Mich. The caller asked if the Madison branch would be interested in coordinating Pen Friends with the Michigan library.

The basis of Pen Friends’ conversations was their shared summer reading theme, “All Together Now.” “We thought it would be a fun way to expand on our theme, make new connections and learn about new people and places,” Parkes said.

Pen Friends is not like a traditional ‘Pen Pal’ program. “Rather than pairing the children with individual pen pals, we are offering drop-in sessions for letter writing on Fridays, where children can come write letters to the children at Ransom District Library, based on weekly prompts,” Parkes said.

For one week, the library staff used the following prompts for students to follow in writing to their Pen Friend. Youth needed to ‘fill in the blanks’:

Dear Michigan friends,

Hello from Alabama. The weather is ____ today. My favorite song is ____ by ____. I like it because ____.

What is your favorite song and why? What types of music do you like listening to? I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Your friend,

John

“I then send the letters to the library in Michigan and put the letters I receive on display in the Children’s Room,” Parkes said. “Children have the option of responding to a specific letter or writing a more general letter based on the weekly prompts.”

Because the setup allows children to drop in to write a letter, the library staff has welcomed children on varying dates.

“I have had to explain the concept of having a Pen Pal to most of the children who have participated in Pen Friends, but they catch on fast and seem excited,” Parkes said.

Thus far, the Madison staff has covered topics such as “Tell me about your hometown” to discuss the weather, favorite places, activities, favorite sports and favorite sports teams.

“Some weeks have had better attendance than others, but I am happy to offer the opportunity for the children who do want to participate,” Parkes said.

For more information, call 256-461-0046 or visit madison@hmcpl.org.

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