Get Students Excited about Writing with Annie’s Project

By Joanne Sallay

Posted in English Tutoring, Featured, Local, Tips & Advice

Get Students Excited about Writing with Annie’s Project

In the latest edition of the Ontario School Library Association magazine - The Teaching Librarian - our President, Joanne Sallay, shares the origin and impact of Annie’s Project. A small child with a big heart had a great idea during the peak of the pandemic – to create cards with messages of hope to seniors living in long-term care homes. This simple act of kindness inspired teachers, students, and families in the Toronto community to participate, which resulted in immense happiness for elderly residents and their health care providers. While visitation is permitted again, there is no reason why this thoughtful project must end. If you’re searching for a creative art activity for your child this summer, or meaningful opportunity to practice writing skills to prepare for back-to-school time, read on!

Article as seen in May 2022 issue - Leadership @ your library:

Libraries are special places that inspire students to read, learn and grow. It’s also a space where educators encourage and cultivate curiosity and creativity in children of all ages. If you are looking for a collaborative leadership project to introduce to your colleagues and students, read on about Annie’s Project.

The Story Behind Annie’s Project

When new restrictions in Ontario were added at the end of December 2021 to long-term care residences to put a pause on social visits, 6-year-old Annie came up with a novel idea. Let’s draw them a picture and write them a nice message to cheer them up.  She started on her own with the help of family and friends. It’s no surprise that her mother is an elementary school teacher who supported this endeavor and helped to deliver cards to seniors living at Baycrest in Toronto, Ontario.

Reviving the Lost Art of Handwriting

After noticing the initial request for cards, I wanted to get involved and help spread awareness. This project resonated with me personally and professionally. As both a parent and president of Teachers on Call, I am a big believer in teaching children to write in addition to all the amazing technology available to them. It’s an essential skill for kids to learn with respect to self-expression, cognitive development, and fine motor skills.  I also know the value of having a special senior to write to. When I was a child, my grandfather and I wrote to one another since we lived in different provinces. This is something that students are now experiencing through Annie’s Project.

Student and School Participation

Through word of mouth the idea caught on, as Annie’s network of friends and classmates wanted to help. This grassroots project grew with the help of teachers and parent councils who introduced this initiative to their students. A special mention for Brown Junior Public School and Oriole Park Junior Public School in the Toronto District School Board who delved in with heart and soul, as well as to all the grandparents who contacted my office to drop off cards made with their grandchildren

The Community Impact

I had the immense pleasure to chat with Rachel Gavendo, a Therapeutic Recreationist at Baycrest. She shared, “We handed out and posted on unit walls all the cards provided to us. Residents were very grateful to receive the lovely and thoughtful cards. It certainly brightened their day!” It’s pretty remarkable that the idea of a 6-year-old has sparked this community initiative that has brought so much joy to seniors and nursing staff with drawings and messages of hope.

Advice on What to Write and Guidelines

I asked Rachel for tips for students on what the residents like to see in letters. She shared that residents love to hear about student’s daily lives and what they are doing. Handmade cards and drawings are also coveted, although digital messages are still very much enjoyed and appreciated. In terms of guidelines, she recommends not including last names or personal numbers.

How your School can Participate

Do you want to help Annie exceed her goal of 500 pictures and messages? It doesn’t matter where in Ontario you are located or the age of your students (adults welcome as well). Your contribution will brighten and bring happiness to seniors and the nursing staff who care for them.

Cards and letters can be mailed to the Teachers on Call office and we will get them over to Annie to distribute on your behalf – check out - or e-mailed directly to the project at . Every single card will be sure to bring smiles. Happy Writing!

*This column is dedicated to the memory of former Editor-in-Chief of the Teaching Librarian, Caroline Freibauer – a dedicated educator, avid reader, and supportive friend – who passed away too soon on July 31, 2022. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Brantford Public Library in Brantford, Ontario.

Photography by Jennifer Allison from JSHUTTER Photography

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