By Mary Eyler

Virginia Manning’s third grade class at Crown Point Elementary (with the help of Rebecca Mott) has been participating in The Dialogue Journals Project throughout the school year. They have been writing to the members of the Mandarin Senior Center since early October 2021. This program allows the students to use their language arts skills in writing letters and cultivate a sense of community in the process. 

In early October, pen pals became paired, and journals were picked up from the school and delivered to the Mandarin Senior Center. After the friends from the Mandarin Senior Center wrote their initial messages, the journals were then returned to the school for reply. 

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The students enjoyed writing the letters and were excited to receive the replies from the caring friends at the center. 

On May 18, a reception planned by Manning allowed the pen pals to meet in Crown Point’s Media Center. The reception was filled with several fun activities, including face painting, temporary tattoos, a photoshoot, a friendship-themed word search, and a map activity to allow participants to discuss their birthplace and hometown. Refreshments were provided, and the participants were given a chance to look through their journals together.

At the end of the reception, the journal partners sang along to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the movie “Toy Story” and stuck name tags on the bottom of each other’s shoes, just as Andy put his name on the sole of his friend Woody’s boot. 

The Dialogue Journals Project is adopted from a literacy program Mott began while working as Educational Coordinator for The Commercial Appeal Newspaper in Memphis. The project was remarkably successful there. So, when she moved to Jacksonville, she decided to try it in this area. 

Mott is hoping to expand The Dialogue Journal Project into more settings this fall. If you are interested in learning more about the project, contact her at or leave a message at (904) 248-8595. 

Photos courtesy Mary Eyler
Pen pals meet face to face at the reception on May 18.

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