Boosting literacy through pen pal schools program - Education Matters
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Boosting literacy through pen pal schools program

Australia-Post-Pen-Pal-Club-literacy

A new initiative by Australia Post called The Pen Pal Club aims to improve the literacy skills of primary school aged children by encouraging them to experience the joy of exchanging letters with other students across the nation.

Together with the Pen Pal Club program, Australia Post has launched a storybook and announced its partnership with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

“There has been a lot of public discussion around the need to improve youth literacy across the country. Through the Pen Pal Club children can experience the fun and excitement of getting something in the mail, and connecting with others, sometimes from different cultures and across great distances, while developing their reading and writing skills,” said Australia Post’s Head of Community Nicky Tracey.

The Pen Pal Club storybook, written by Sally Morgan and illustrated by Annie White, follows the journey of pen pals from diverse settings across Australia who exchange handwritten letters with each other. Designed to improve youth literacy, the book and associated school resources are supported by an online Pen Pal Club school exchange program. The program enables early learning, kindergarten and primary teachers to register their class to be connected with another class in Australia to start handwritten exchanges between students in different parts of the country.

“There is no doubt there is strong appetite for new ways to engage students in reading and writing. We piloted our online Pen Pal Club program with school teachers in September and over 5300 classes have already registered, with almost 90 per cent of these matched to start their exchanges,” said Ms Tracey.

Recent PISA data shows that Australian students reading performance has continued to decline and is now at a level around 18 months behind the highest performing country; with statistics for Indigenous students even lower at almost 28 months.*

“In very remote Indigenous communities, children’s books are scarce and literacy levels are significantly lower than anywhere else in Australia. Together Australia Post and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation will help ensure that children in remote Indigenous communities have better access to books and more opportunities to develop literacy skills,” explained Karen Williams, Executive Director of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is Australia Post’s Major Literacy Partner. Australia Post supports the Foundation through its delivery network to send nearly 100,000 books to remote communities.

Author of The Pen Pal Club storybook, Sally Morgan, emphasised the need for building literacy skills in a fun, positive way.

“Improving children’s access to books, reading and literacy helps them develop essential life skills and broadens their horizons. Closing the literacy gap will provide children with more exciting opportunities and greater interpersonal skills and the Pen Pal Club provides a positive and engaging platform to help achieve this.”

The Pen Pal Club book, online Pen Pal Club school exchange and associated resources are available free of charge for early learning centres, kindergartens and primary schools. Schools can register by clicking here.