I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

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Are you looking for a book that will inspire your older students? I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives is the deeply moving story that will challenge your 7th-12th grade students to see the world through different eyes.

Caitlin is a typical American 12-year-old girl. Life is all about her friends, shopping, boys, and fighting with her brother.  Her afternoons are filled with Spice Girls and trips to the mall. When Caitlin's teacher gives her the opportunity to write a letter to a student in Zimbabwe, Caitlin's eyes are opened to a world view she couldn't see before.

Martin is a hard-working, studious 14-year-old boy, who knows from an early age that education will be his ticket out of the slums he is growing up in in Zimbabwe. Martin loves school and, in particular, mathematics. He dreams of someday going to the University and, living with his mother, father and 4 siblings along with another family in a 2 person shack, Martin's mother also knows that he is destined for greater things. She pushes him hard to be the best in his class. When only 10 letters arrived at Martin's school from America, Martin was chosen first to write back. America, as he knew it, was filled with Hulk Hogan  and "Murungu", and white skinned people, who Martin had only seen once in his childhood.

Letter after letter, year after year, Martin and Caitlin begin growing up together, although continents apart. Martin tries hard to be Caitlin's friend without sharing the hardships of his young life. He keeps poverty, hunger and political unrest from Caitlin by choosing to talk about lighter things. With a hungry stomach, Martin listens to Caitlin's complaints about arguments with friends and the newest Spice Girl Songs. Martin works hauling luggage at a local bus station to afford the envelopes and stamps to keep up his friendship with his new American friend. But as life gets harder for Martin, and he is no longer allowed to attend school because his family cannot afford the $20 per Semester tuition, Caitlin soon begins picking up on clues and worrying for her best friend. When Martin's letters become sporadic and one arrives in tiny letters written on a piece of trash, Caitlin begins secretly slipping her babysitting money in with her letters. As Martin begins sharing the real details of his life, Caitlin will stop at nothing to be sure he gets the same chances in life she has been given. Through this friendship, Martin's life and the life of his family begins improving and in exchange, Caitlin and her family are allowed the gift of seeing the world around them through different eyes. Caitlin learns the incredible gift that her education is and begins taking her and Martin's academic futures much more seriously. It becomes her goal to see Martin's dream of college become a reality. 

I Will Always Write Back follows the first 11 years of Martin and Caitlin's friendship. Your students will love watching their relationship grow from pen pals to best friends. This book emphasizes the importance of education and how the ability to attend school actually does saves lives. It will give them a world view of how other students their age are living. 

Although there are hardships and challenges, Caitlin goes on to become a Registered Nurse where her compassion for others is a gift and Martin achieves his University Dream when he graduates with a Dual Degree in Math and Economy. Martin and Caitlin remain life long friends whose lives are forever changed by the promise to always write back.

You can find I Will Always Write Back here. It will be a favorite with students and teachers alike!

A fantastic activity to pair with this book is a School Pen Pal program. You can sign up your class to interact with other students in your country or countries around the world! 

The Teacher's Corner has a great program you can learn more about here. It is sure to be an experience your students will never forget!