When you were a kid, did you have a pen pal? Many of us have fond memories of writing letters back and forth with a cherished friend from another town, state, or country. Exchanging letters with a long-distance friend can be a fun way for kids to practice their reading and writing skills, exchange ideas, enhance their social skills, and learn about people in other parts of the world. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina recently started a pen pal program that can boast of another benefit–language revitalization.
Students in the language immersion programs of the two communities have been having a great time sending letters back and forth in the Cherokee language. The students participating in the program are in kindergarten through second grade, and in addition to sending cards and letters, they’ve been sending each other items of cultural significance. It’s a great way for children of the two geographically separated bands to learn about each other and discover what they have in common. As Cherokee Nation Immersion School second-grade teacher Denise Chaudoin puts it,
“The kids are excited and they feel like they’re getting to know the other kids a little bit. It’s a really good program for the kids in both areas to get to know each other and realize we’re all Cherokees, whether we’re from the east or west.”
Congratulations to these kids for their role in perpetuating the Cherokee language! Maybe a pen pal program wouldn’t be a bad idea for some of us adults?