By Hope Liveson
As the pile of rejection letters from children’s publishing companies grew higher and higher, Cassondra Givans decided to stop waiting for publishers to bring her stories to life. She would publish them herself, and in the process, develop real relationships with the children who read them. She wanted to not only share her own stories but to encourage children to write stories of their own, to engage in the real art of letter-writing versus the fleeting scribbles of e-communication, and to engage their interest in history, in literature, and in geography.
Cassondra developed LetterPerfect, a personalized letter subscription service for children. For $16.99 a year, students receive personally addressed letters every month as well as a card on their birthdays. Students may choose from one of two fictional characters with whom to correspond. Aunt Lucy Lavender is an English teacher at a girls’ school with a passion for poetry and adventure. She has no children of her own but develops close relationships with her students, and her letters are full of their adventures. She loves animals and nature, and her eccentric husband often adds as much color to her letters as do her students!
The second character, Uncle Henry O’Hare, is an archaeologist and history professor. Part Cherokee-Indian and part Irish-American, he is fascinated by the stories of the past and often writes of his digs all over the world. He is still single and so travels often, frequently accompanied by his students. He and Lucy are actually brother and sister, although there is an age difference of ten years between them. While Lucy’s wild red hair easily betrays her Irish descent, Henry’s features are all borrowed from his Native American ancestry. Occasionally one sibling may refer to the other in his letter, although due to their travels, they are not often together.
Children are encouraged to write their characters as often as they like. This enables the character to respond personally to any comments or questions the student may have, whether academic or personal, and adds to the unique nature of each letter. They may also choose whether they prefer typewritten or handwritten letters. Younger children may find type easier to read than cursive. The ideal ages for the program are ages 7-14, depending on the maturity and reading skills of the student.
The service is particularly helpful to home schooling families, where responding to the letters may actually assist with curriculum and provide the child with a sympathetic friend of his or her own outside the home. At this point, almost 90% of subscribers are homeschoolers, although LetterPerfect is hoping to see an expansion of its subscriber base with their new webpage, www.letterperfectkids.com. Subscription requests may be sent, along with a check or money order for $16.99 payable to LetterPerfect, to LetterPerfect, 8839 West 30th Street, Clermont, IN, 46234.
Homemaker Mom is Pen-Pal to Kids
By Chastity Beltz
Madera homemaker, Rebecca "Ann" Dowty, is "Aunt Annie," pen-pal to children of all ages. "Aunt Annie" writes personalized, hand-written letters each month telling of the extreme snowboarding trip that she took last week or of the simple life: collecting the eggs at her Uncle Alfred’s farm.
Dowty says that "Aunt Annie" was inspired by the excitement and glee that her daughter experienced every time she checked the mailbox and found her monthly Dr. Seuss book "just to her and just for her."
"It’s largely due to parents’ dedication to their children that "Aunt Annie" is such a faithful pen-pal," says Dowty, "Parents are good about keeping current mailing addresses, so "Aunt Annie" does not miss a single month in writing to her pen-pals."
"Writing and story telling have long been a hobby of mine," says Dowty, "this just seemed like a perfect opportunity to make a kid’s day, and make a little money on the side, too."
"As part of the subscription," explained Dowty, "Aunt Annie" may also return Emails via the world wide web. However, I’ve yet to ascertain whether I can handle the potential volume of incoming Emails with the faithfulness that is characteristic of "Aunt Annie."
"Aunt Annie" sends one personalized, hand-written letter to each child every month, a birthday card and a Christmas card for an annual subscription of $24.95 (U.S.).
For more information or to subscribe, please send: check or money order (made payable to: Rebecca A. Dowty), Child’s Name, complete address, birth month, age & specify print or cursive to:
Rebecca A. Dowty
17533 Rodeo Drive
Madera, CA 93638-0446.