Third graders in teacher Casey Rausch’s Crestwood Elementary School in Cresco are already preparing to write to the pen pals they’ll be matched with this winter through a Northeast Iowa RSVP program. “We did not have the Pen Pal program last year due to COVID and are so excited to get it up and running again!” Rausch said. Three rounds of letters will be exchanged between the three classes of Third grade at Crestwood Elementary and volunteers from Northeast Iowa RSVP.
RSVP pairs volunteers age 55 and up with local organizations and is looking for individuals to connect with students through letter writing as part of the local Pen Pals program.
Pen Pals gives students an opportunity to practice the art of letter writing, increases reading and writing skills, and improves their social skills and involvement in school. Students in Rausch’s class have begun to warm up for writing letters by composing emails.
When the Pen Pals program begins, Rausch said, students have already learned to write in cursive. “However, now they are responsible for writing entire letters in cursive,” she said. “They are learning the proper procedure to create a letter, including sentence and paragraph structure. They learn how to generate ideas, ask and answer questions and correctly address and sign a letter. They get a new friend out of the process as well.”
The RSVP volunteer letter writers gain a lot through the experience too. Receiving an actual letter in the mail can brighten anyone’s day. Making a new friend and reading about a child’s interests and accomplishments can boost one’s mental well-being. The only supplies required are a pen or pencil and paper. Writing letters through the Pen Pals program does not require a computer or the internet. Also, letters can be sent from anywhere, so people from other counties or those who travel south for the winter can participate.
Rausch’s students liked writing to their pen pals so much that some of them continued to exchange letters with their RSVP partners even while the program was officially shut down last year.
The first batch of letter-writing will begin in January 2022.
Northeast Iowa RSVP has been sponsored by the Decorah Public Library since 2001 with the mission of engaging people age 55 and older in volunteer service to meet critical community needs and to provide a high-quality experience that will enrich the lives of volunteers.