BookPenPals

Author & illustrator postcard pen pals for schools

What is BookPenPals?

BookPenPals pairs UK authors and illustrators with UK schools to make book recommendations via postcards. Schools reply with a postcard of their own. The Pen Pals pairings last for one school year, and the joys of reading, writing and drawing multiply.

photo of school children with BookPenPals postcard from Sara Grant
courtesy of @misshath2
photo of Laura Hughes's postcard with a drawing of penguin holding an ice cream cone and a cat on the envelope
courtesy of @Glebelove2read

How it works

Authors and illustrators recommend other people’s books to a class, over the course of a school year. They can also send occasional writing advice or drawing tips. Schools reply to let their Pen Pals know if they’ve enjoyed the recommended books. Lovely relationships between schools and authors/illustrators develop!

At the end of the school year, the author or illustrator can retire from the programme or switch to a new school. Schools that participated in 2018-19 must register with the website to participate in 2019-20.

Schools benefit from discovering a wide range of books from experts in children’s literature, while being inspired through regular contact with an author/illustrator. In some cases, the relationship leads to an in-person or Skype visit.

Author/illustrator guidelines

Author/illustrator Pen Pals commit to sending a minimum of SIX postcards over the course of the school year (September to July). The postcards contain reading recommendations appropriate to the year group of the class. The recommendation can be of a classic, a less well-known book you know and love, a brand-new release, or anything in between. We also encourage Pen Pals to send writing/drawing prompts or tips.

Pen Pals can take up to a maximum of three schools, and the partnership lasts for one academic year.

We encourage everyone to send a private review of their Book Pen Pals experience at the end of the academic year, so we can highlight where things are working and fix anything that isn’t.

Pen Pals may choose to participate in the digital arm of the programme, creating digital postcards with their recommendations to be automatically sent to schools without Pen Pals. This will require optional, minimum extra effort but mean that your name is introduced to a much higher number of schools and students.

a school bulletin board displaying photos, school work and postcards from their Book Pen Pals experience with Savita Kalhan
courtesy of @stwLRC
a school bulletin board displaying photos, school work and postcards from their Book Pen Pals experience with Harry Heape
courtesy of @mrsprice02
a tweet with a video several school girls holding post from Julie Sykes and shouting thank you
courtesy of @kininmps
Kathryn Evans on a school visit inspired by BookPenPals
courtesy of @BrownedgeStMary

School guidelines

Schools commit to sending a minimum of four postcard replies to their author/illustrator Pen Pals over the course of the school year. Tweeting or other social media, in line with your school policy, is encouraged and appreciated.

Schools must not register more than one class or group for the Book Pen Pals programme in any school year. This is due to demand outstripping supply in Pen Pals! Schools can register with a single or a pair of year groups (e.g. Year 1 or Year 1/2), to help Pen Pals choose schools with age groups that match their expertise.

As authors and illustrators may take on more than one school, please note that they cannot accommodate multiple replies from students unless special arrangements are made.

We encourage everyone to send us a private review of their Book Pen Pals experience at the end of the academic year, so we can highlight where things are working and fix anything that isn’t.

If a school isn't paired with a Pen Pal for the current school year, they will have a greater chance of being selected the following year, and the school will be eligible to receive digital postcards. Digital postcards will be the same quality book recommendations from our Pen Pals, but not the same Pen Pal each time and without personalisation.

I want to sign up!

For authors and illustrators, please note that at the moment, we can only accept children's book authors and illustrators with industry-recognised publication credentials. Debut authors/illustrators and traditional small presses are welcome. The industry-recognised requirement is because we must ensure quality but cannot review the work of every creator that wishes to join.

For teacher accounts, we need the link to the school to be publicly confirmable (i.e. with a Twitter account linking to a school, or the teacher's name on the school website).

Support us

If you’re a publisher, a bookseller, or someone who is interested in supporting us in another way, please email us: kateandsara@bookpenpals.com