The Upside of a Fictional Pen Pal
Is My Pen Pal Fake? What to say to your child.
The thought of signing your child up for a fictional pen pal might have you grappling with the dilemma of what to say to your child. It really boils down to one thing - your personal preference!
Letting your child believe their pen pal is real is not a requirement of participating. At Dear Izzy, we think the pen pal letters are highly effective either way, and we respect the views and choices of all parents, as well as the fact that you know your child best!
As you decide which is the best course forward for you and your child, you should understand Dear Izzy’s rationale for going with fictional pen pals over real ones. Maintaining complete control over the quality and consistency of content ensures the best experience for your child. While the characters may not be real, they are informed by hours of research and interviews with real people!
However you choose to explain Dear Izzy to your child, we are here to support you and your child on their way to reading stardom.
Follow Your Child’s Lead.
Your child may never think to question whether their pen pal is real or fictional. Like most children in the early reading ages (4-7) they are still developing the ability to conceptualize “real” and “make believe”. They live in a world full of imagination and magic, and having a “real” pen pal is not beyond the scope of what seems perfectly feasible to them.
At some point, perhaps they’ll ask you, and then you have a decision to make. What to tell them and how much? This awesome NPR podcast on Parenting: Difficult Conversations, gets into the nuances of how to really listen to your child’s question and respond with the answers they are really looking for and are developmentally appropriate. You’ll also note that the experts on the podcast, as well as this child psychologist, do make a clear recommendation for telling the truth when your child is ready to hear it. Lastly, this article describes how helping children believe, and then learn the truth about their beliefs, can be a positive experience.
Prefer to Tell Your Child Upfront?
Should you decide that you prefer to take the lead here and let your child know that their letters are coming from a character, we encourage you to simply add to the script on introducing the pen pal letters from the start. (Reminder: here is our suggested script for the three things to tell your child about their new pen pal.)
In addition to the talking points on what a pen pal is in general, you could add something like: “Your pen pal is a character, just like one you’d see on TV, in a movie or a book. They are not a real person. It will be so fun to get letters in the mail just for you!”
The good news is, no matter which approach you take, it does not detract from Dear Izzy’s ability to engage your child in a positive, joyful early reading experience. Choose what works best for you and your family, and know that we are honored to have a place in your child’s reading journey.
Your partners in early reading,
Annie & Nicole