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Penpals Celebrate Newfound Friendships

Trent University students have left an imprint on their primary school penpals - on their T-shirts, that is.

The penpals celebrated another successful year on Friday, April 1. Together they designed and hand printed T-shirts with paint, played games and sang songs at Trent University's Gzowski College at Argyle Street. A record number of primary schoolchildren were matched with Trent University students this year. This year's program kicked off in September.

Classes from Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board schools were paired with Trent penpals - undergraduate arts and science students as well as teacher candidates in Trent's Bachelor of Education program. The pupils were in grades one through three at Otonabee Valley, Keith Wightman, Roger Neilsen and Curve Lake First Nations schools. Every month the schoolchildren wrote a letter as well as received one from a Trent University student.

The primary teachers incorporate the penpal correspondence as part of their Language Arts program and say nothing parallels this motivation to read and write.

"The program keeps meaningful communication, human relationship, and an ethic of caring at the heart of literacy," says Dr. Deborah Berrill, director, Trent's School of Education and Professional Learning. "We can't think of a finer motivation than to write to a person who is your very own special penpal and in the case of this program, the relationship goes both ways. We know that the connection with children centres many of our University students, particularly with the knowledge that they are supporting a child in learning to read and write."

Teachers report that by getting to the campus and developing a relationship with a University student, the children see their own potential differently and often start talking about how they plan to go to university someday, says Prof. Berrill.

"We deeply value our strong, multi-faceted partnership with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and as we unite schoolchildren and University students as part of the Penpal Program, we are supporting literacy development together."

Posted April 4, 2005

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Last Updated April 20, 2005