Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Learning Series: Pen Pals

Dear ‘Buelita

Another way to sneak in some writing and reading practice is to set up some sort of letter exchange between your child and a relative or amigo. Maybe this would be a great time to strengthen the bond between your niños and their abuelos? Here’s what we have set up in our house this summer…

Once a week or so, mi mamá sends a little letter to my oldest child. On one side, she writes a brief message in English and on the other side she writes the Spanish version. She also includes a one dollar bill that my daughter gets to keep if she reads the card. I’m not personally big on the money, and if you aren’t either, try having ‘Buelita make up some “coupons”. So for example, if your niño reads the whole card, he gets to save the coupon for the next time that ‘Buelita comes to visit. Possible coupons could be “good for one free hug and snuggle” or “good for one bedtime story” or “good for one batch of ‘Buelita’s famous pastelitos”. You get the idea.

And if you’d like to take it one step further, have your child make and decorate a special little box for holding her coupon treasures until the next time they are able to redeem them.

Now, after my daughter receives her carta, she is required to respond so that she can practice writing and spelling. However, I wasn’t too happy with the regular paper we were using. So I got on the computer and created some fun stationery that includes the handwriting guide lines. I have included two links in my sidebar if your child is around the same age and you would like to download a few copies. Or just take a look at them and create your own.

At any rate, we sit down together and she practices what she’d like to say on some scrap paper. I give her a hand with the spelling and/or I write the words out for her in the proper letter format so that she has some copywork. She then transfers it over to her personal stationery.

This is helping her to learn the proper way to begin a letter and to recognize certain site words.

One last thing, she is encouraged to include a little paper gift for her ‘Buelita. This can be some sort of artwork (bookmarks, drawings, etc.) or a coupon of her own.

I love this summer project the most because it not only helps my daughter with her literacy skills, but it also helps to maintain the special connection that she has with her grandmother. I know they will both treasure these sweet and loving messages that they have exchanged for a long time.

On a final note, I’d like to add just one more thing: In this high-tech world where social media and electronic mail is flourishing, the simple and personal act of handwriting a letter is being lost. When was the last time that you sent or received a letter from a friend or relative? Can you remember? If so, do you remember how you felt? I’m betting it was probably excitement, anticipation, or happiness – or a combination of all three.

Let us foster small, loving actions such as these in our children, so that they take the time to consider others in their daily lives. We are not just raising children, but we are growing the people with whom we will hopefully be spending our entire lives.

Con mucho cariño…


  1. What a great idea. My parents live on the other side of the country so we barely get to see them (maybe once- twice if we are lucky- a year) this is a great project for my oldest. Though he is only four we can start with something simpler, like the drawings or him telling me what to write and me dotting the letters for him to trace.

    I've been thinking about homeschooling for a while now and have been leaning more and more towards it...I decided not to place him in preschool for the same reason, instead I'm teaching him myself all the basics en Español e Ingles. I am glad you started this blog. Though I've read plenty on homeschooling before, none focused on bilingual homeschooling. Yey for you! and lucky me to now have a place to find resources, ideas and support.


  2. Hi, Lisa!

    I think there is a free font for your computer that you can download that dots the words for you. I'll look it up and post about it.

    Even if you don't wind up homeschooling, I hope you get a lot of information from the site to help supplement your children's bilingual education!

    Un abrazo,

  3. This is such a beautiful idea. Even if my daughter can't write yet, I'm sure the abuelos would appreciate her doodles and stamps. She's been learning about earning some monedas and putting them in the cochinito so she can get a toy she's been asking for. So, would love getting a dollar from them!

  4. Ana,
    Sending them "artwork" definitely counts towards preparing your daughter for literacy. Any type of coloring or drawing develops your child's hand-to-eye coordination and gets her started on the road to writing!


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