Third PencilPALS event with mentors and students in Corona, Queens
NEW YORK— On May 20th, nineteen writer and actor mentors went to P.S. 16, an elementary school in Corona, Queens, as part of their ongoing participation in PencilPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools). PencilPALS is an offshoot of BookPALS, a nationwide program of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, and is part of the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation.
To start the day, a portion of the writers and actors gathered in the library, where they were dispersed to nine different first and second grade classrooms to read picture books to students as part of the BookPALS program. The mentors had a wonderful time reading and sharing with the students.
Afterward all the writer mentors gathered in the 5-4 Gifted and Talented class taught by fifth grade teacher Janine Esposito to meet their PencilPALs. Sitting on kid-sized chairs and a carpet on the floor, the young students talked about their favorite books, going to school and their summer vacations with the older writers. Visitors included writer and director Nora Ephron, her sister screenwriter Delia Ephron and writers from television shows such as Law & Order: Criminal Intent, One Life to Live and The Cosby Show.
Nora Ephron said it was fun to write to her pal, 11-year-old Fabiola Adosav. “Fabiola is the only person who writes me letters besides the electric company, the phone company,” she said.
Gina Gionfriddo, a former Law & Order writer who helped administer the program at PS 16, said it teaches students how to write letters, which she said is a good thing to retain in an age where most communication is done by e-mail, since it is a slower process and allows the writer to be more reflective.
“I had a pen pal when I was a kid ... and I just remember how exciting it was to exchange letters and meet the person who you correspond with,” Gionfriddo said.
Playwright and author Mark St. Germain got more than he bargained for when he was paired up with 11-year-old Gonzalo Vazquez of Corona. The writer sent Vazquez a birthday card, only to have the student call him out for messy handwriting. St. Germain is now trying to improve his penmanship.
"At least you tried," Vazquez told St. Germain sheepishly.
But Vazquez said that corresponding with St. Germain has made him a better writer. "After reading some of his books, it inspired me to write," Vazquez said. "I've been reading more."
The mentors who attended this event include Nora Ephron, Deila Ephron, Brant Englestein, Sibohan Byrne O’Conner, Shelly Altman, Barbara Garshman, Jackie Reingold, George Malko, Anastasia Traina, Susanna Styron, Cynthia Benjamin, Michael Slade, Betsy Aidem, Gina Gionfriddo, Jerry Kass, Mark St. Germain, and Ethan Silverman.
PencilPALS Partnership Growing
The Screen Actors Guild Foundation's volunteer writing program, PencilPALS: Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools is blossoming across the country thanks to a partnership with the WGAE Foundation and the volunteer efforts of Writers Guild Members who have joined the literary cause in New York and Florida! The program, which is designed to make writing a first person experience for elementary school children, helps revive the lost art of letter writing. Children share their thoughts about favorite books, school happenings and long term aspirations. Sharing their letters and stories with a volunteer PencilPAL affords each child a sense of pride in their own writing.
News on Pencil PALS 05.21.10 | Eleven writer and actor mentors went to P.S. 16, an elementary school in Corona, Queens, as part of their ongoing participation in PencilPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools). Read More
Founded by the SAG foundation, this program is a letter exchange program between creative people and students, geared towards inspiring a love of reading and writing in fourth graders. PencilPALS began its work with PS 255 in Brooklyn last year, and is currently working with fifth graders at P.S. 16 in Corona, Queens.