Author Pen Pals is a new initiative to get Australian kids excited about reading. The program, inspired by UK-based Book PenPals, connects Australian authors and illustrators with Australian schools, “especially those whose lack of funds or remote location means they rarely, if ever, get to host authors or illustrators.”
The program was started in 2023 by children’s authors Kate Foster and Dee White, and saw approximately 200 authors and illustrators, 90 schools across all states and territories, and over 250 individual classes participate.
The program is returning in 2024 and is currently open to expressions of interest for schools and creators.
“Dee and I are super excited and so very proud to take our programme into its second year,” says Kate Foster. “We have an impressive list of creators already on board for 2024, and we’ll continue to accept new creator and school sign ups right through until early next year.”
Author Pen Pals pairs a book creator with a group of primary school students, sending them a minimum of four postcards or letters throughout the school year. Students send two responses, and everything is delivered the old-fashioned way via snail mail. It’s an opportunity for children to ask questions and discuss books with the people who create them.
Nurturing strong literacy skills in children has multiple benefits, from improving memory and concentration, boosting performance and critical thinking, and developing empathy, stronger mental health, and self-image. You can find out more stats about the benefits of reading in our recent Research Review Snapshot report.
Rachael Hind, Teacher Librarian at St Thomas Aquinas Primary School, one of the participating schools in 2023, says: “Classes have loved receiving letters and packages from our authors and enjoyed replying to questions the authors asked. It has been wonderful to get to know the work of authors new to us and their books are now very hot property in our library.”