This school year, I'm participating in a program called In2Books. It's an online pen-pal reading program for kids in 3rd through 5th grade. You can sign up on the In2Books website, which involves paying a $5 or $6 fee to cover the expense of a background check. Once you have been cleared, you are assigned a pen-pal, or e-pal as they call them, who you immediately start corresponding with through the In2Books web interface. Your responsibilities as an e-pal involve writing an introductory email to your student, and then reading five books, selected by the student, over the course of the school year, and exchanging discussion emails with the student about those books. The emails are exchanged using the In2Books website, so there's no actual email addresses exchanged, and all emails are screened by the teachers in the classrooms before they are exchanged between the student and the e-pal.
My student is a 3rd grader in Washington state named Glory. From her letters, she seems like a really sweet girl, and really excited about reading and writing about it. We have some of the same favorite foods in pizza and broccoli, too. We just read Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech, which was Glory's selection for the fiction unit. I sent my email about it last weekend, and I'm expecting my letter back from her any day now. It was a cute book about the dynamic nature of friendship, and it even inspired me to make chicken soup the other day. The In2Books program has five units over the course of the school year. We just did fiction, next is social studies, then there's biography, traditional tales, and science.
This is a great program. I love that it gets kids excited about reading, gets them to read thoughtfully and to write about what they read. I love that it lets kids have discussions about what they're reading with grown-ups that are really excited to read with them, and who they only know because of their reading with them. Unlike a parent or teacher or tutor, who read with them because it's their job. Here, the kids know that their pen pal is really excited about reading with them, and is looking forward to reading the books and hearing what they think of them. This is my first year participating, but I can foresee myself staying involved with it for years to come.