My 5-year-old daughter has a pen pal. Iris and Malaya met one summer in Maine when they were both three. They hit it off instantly! We had play dates all summer and rainy days spent indoors. When we headed home to California, the girls hugged each other and promised to stay friends.

It began with us, Moms, writing what our daughters wanted to say to each other. The girls decorated the notes with stickers and drawings. After a few exchanges, the girls started signing their own names at the bottom of the letters. Now, my preschooler writes full letters to her friend, asking for my help to spell out the words she wants to say.

There is so much excitement when we get a letter in the mail. I let her open her own letter, and together we sit as I read it to her. Sometimes she immediately wants to write her friend back. Other times she just sets it aside and goes off playing with something else. Some mornings when she thinks of something she wants to say to her friend, she recruits me to help her write a letter.

Having a pen pal has given my daughter so much enthusiasm and inspiration to read, write and express herself on paper. She loves the whole process: writing a letter, decorating it with stickers and drawings, folding it into the envelope and putting the sticker-stamp on the top right corner. I even let her write her name on the top left corner, and her friend’s name on the center of the envelope. As a favor to the postal worker, I write the addresses. A trip to the post office where my daughter puts her letter into the mail box completes the process.

Iris and Malaya only see each other in the summer when we visit Maine. But the two share such a special friendship as pen pals. I imagine their letters becoming more and more interesting as they learn about the world they are living in. Someday I know I won’t be in the loop anymore, as my daughter learns to read and write letters on her own. Until then I am happily helping her keep in touch.

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