Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Check out some of Tej and Pappu's lunch notes!

"do you know when the great spinx was built? Today will be a great day. Do you want to get ice cream tonight. You are just like the great spinx to me and lia. When I am older I will be the spinx to you and papu. Love Tej"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Video Interview with Tej!

Hey guys, I recently interviewed Tej about PenPal Lunch Notes, and you can check it out below! This was Tej's first video interview, so he starts off a little shy, but warms right up in no time. We talked about his general impressions, his favorite facts and tested him on specific information. Tej completed Meet the U.S. Presidents 3 months ago, and while he had trouble on some questions, I was pretty impressed by what he was able to retain. By relating associated information, Tej could recount specific dates and minute details- George Washington's years in office, Teddy Roosevelt's childhood asthma, Truman's middle initial -facts that I didn't even know!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I’m Emi, I’m interning at PenPal Notes for the summer and I’ll be keeping this blog for a little while! I’m originally from Brooklyn, I will be a junior at Vassar College come this fall, and my favorite PenPals series is Dinosaurs Days.

Enough about me, the real reason that I’m posting is because I am going to be using this blog to interview PenNotes customers, and share their experiences and tips with you. And my first interviewee is none other than Pappu Panda, the creator of PenPal Lunch Notes!

PenPal Notes requires commitment from parents, and Pappu has discovered that the key is in consistency- consistency in giving the notes and asking follow-up questions on a daily basis. Working with Pappu, I know firsthand that he and his son Tej have short attention spans, and these notes allow them to digest a concise fact every day and to engage in some father-son bonding. Like anything worth its while, making PenNotes a success takes time, patience and creativity, but the results say everything- Tej's writing skills have improved, he is now a repository of all sorts of interesting facts and he loves spending time on it!

How did you use your PenNotes? Did you put them in your child’s lunchbox or come up with other creative strategies?

Because Tej's school provides him with lunch, Pappu Panda instead slips PenNotes into Tej's backpack, tucks them in the bathroom mirror in the morning, or just simply hands them to him- PenNotes can be used anywhere, anytime!

If you used more than one series, which one was your favorite and why? Which series was your child’s favorite?

Pappu and his family family have used 3 series thus far: Meet the U.S. Presidents, Discover Africa and Traveling Taste Buds. Everyone's favorite was Meet the Presidents- perfect because the material was age appropriate (Tej is 7), it imparted good lessons about leadership and Tej's interest was already piqued because of Obama!

Most importantly, this series worked because the entire family was committed. In the beginning, Tej wouldn't read the entire PenNote, or would read the personalized message on the back before reading the front. To encourage Tej to read the note in its entirety, Pappu Panda created various incentives. Now, 2 months after completing Meet the Presidents, Tej is still able to answer questions about important dates in presidential history!

What was the hardest part about using PenPal Lunch Notes, for you or your child?

Though Pappu Panda initially forgot to give out a note every day, he realized that it was his responsibility to make the experience fun- so he added stick figures and sudoku on the back. Pappu also read the PenNotes thoroughly, made sure that Tej read the entire note, and then provided questions. While a little tough in the beginning, recently, Tej has been asking where his daily note was!

Do you feel that your child’s skills in reading or communication have improved since using PenPals?

Absolutely, a daily fact that is contextualized and socialized really works! Tej's teacher noted that his sentence structure needed improvement, so Pappu had Tej write to him. Upon encountering writer's block, Pappu gave Tej examples, imposed a time limit and asked him to use a key word from the PenNote in his own message. Over the next month, Tej's writing skills did improve, and by imparting 1 fact/day, Pappu Panda could make sure that Tej really understood the content of the notes!

Furthermore, once the PenNotes were contextualized, Tej started incorporating the information into his daily life, even quoting Abraham Lincoln's "Whatever you are, be a good one" from Meet the Presidents.

Do you have any additional tips or strategies?

Pappu Panda made PenPal Lunch Notes interactive, colorful and fun- now, PenPals are a solid part of Pappu and Tej's daily routine!

I hope that was helpful and interesting! We will be posting more interviews shortly, as well as a video post starring Tej himself. If you are interested in having your own interview featured here, we are giving out Amazon gift certificates or PenPals products up to a $48 cash value. Please contact me at for more information!