Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's that time of year again!

This is my second year participating in the In2Books program.  In case you missed my post about it last year, In2Books is an internet-supported, curriculum-based reading mentor program.  "What what what?" you say - translation: it's a program wherein you're partnered with elementary school kids, you read books with them and then you discuss by email.  And it's awesome.

Click the link to read more about it straight from the source, but I can tell you firsthand, it's a really rewarding program.  Last year, my pen pal was a 3rd grade girl from the Seattle area.  I had so much fun getting to know her and hearing about what was going on in her life, all while seeing how excited she was about the books we were reading and about having a grown-up in a whole other part of the country who was really excited to be reading with her.  As the school year went on, some other pen-pals in her class had "dropped out" and stopped responding to their students' letters (seriously?  Who does this?  These amazing kids are so excited to write to you, and you just fail to write back?  There's no excuse - if you can't stay involved, don't sign up, but at least tell the kids that something has come up and you can't keep writing to them), so the class needed more mentors.  I took on a second student for the last unit of the year, and it was even cooler to discuss the book with two completely different kids and see their different takes on the subject.  The teacher in the class sent occasional emails to let the mentors know what was going on in the classroom, and he was really nice and seemed SO into what the class was doing with this program.  I had such a great experience, I sent the class a gift at the end of the year - 4 books for the classroom/school library, or for the teacher to do whatever he saw fit with, and a little grab bag for each student with a book mark, book plate, pencils, an eraser, and some candy.  They were stoked, and I hope to be able to do the same thing each year that I'm involved in the program.

This year, I opted to get paired with a new student rather than sticking with the same girl as last year, though I'm pretty sure that was an option.  My pen pal this year is a 5th grade boy, but I'm still not sure where he's from.  We just got paired up last week, and I've only gotten one letter from him so far.  I just found out the first book he's chosen, and I'm picking it up from the library this weekend.  I can't stress enough how cool I think this program is.  Childhood literacy has become sort of a key issue for me, and whatever I can do to help get books into kids hands is SO important to me.  I was blessed to grow up in a reading family, and I think it made all the difference in my life, in terms of my learning ability, my absolute love of learning, and my ability and desire to go as far and do as well in school as I did.  In2Books is always looking for new mentors, and they haven't finished pairing people up for this school year, so it's not too late to sign up.  There's a nominal $5 or $6 fee to pay for the cost of a background check, and the only time commitment is to read 5 kids books over the course of the school year, and exchange at least one email per book with your pen-pal. 

Seriously, go to their website and check it out.  Consider signing up as a mentor.  You can thank me later.

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