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Cursive connection

Students, retirees share pen-pal relationship

Two third-grade boys sit at table in classroom, writing on paper
Henry Schulze, left, and Levi Secker, third-grade students at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, write letters to their pen pals at a nearby retirement community.

It started as a cursive writing lesson in one Dallas third-grade class, but it’s become a life lesson.

When Karen Gunter, a teacher at Good Shepherd Episcopal School, showed images of the U.S. Constitution to her third-graders last fall, she realized they didn’t know how to read cursive writing.

A parent suggested Gunter contact Presbyterian Village North, a nearby retirement community, for help.

“He figured that since the residents read and write in cursive, they could help with a cursive writing lesson,” said Gunter.

And so began a special pen-pal program.

Gunter’s class was soon exchanging letters with the residents once a month, with surprising results.

“The kids are learning so much about people through letters,” said Gunter. “Technology doesn’t foster real relationships, certainly not at this age.”

The retirees, who include authors, former medical professionals and military veterans, have a lot to say in their letters.

One resident, Nancy Miller, writes to student Ahan Jain, 9, about her favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys. She told the Dallas Morning News she has formed “a wonderful connection” with the child.

Ahan said Miller is “really nice in her letters. We talk about who [the Cowboys are] going to get, who they’re going to cut, and who they’re going to trade.”

The program reflects the Postal Service’s efforts to promote the value of handwritten correspondence, a focus of the organization throughout April, which is National Card and Letter Writing Month.

The students are now writing outside of the pen-pal program.

“If something happens in school, my students want to write a note to someone about it — and that’s never happened before,” Gunter said.

She hopes the writing lessons will stay with students for years to come.

“I don’t think letter writing will go away. Some things can’t be sent over email.”

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