An Evidence-Based Practice


In2books is an evidenced-based, online program that matches students in grades three through five with a screened adult pen pal. Across the school year, students select and read five books with their pen pals and exchange letters about the key issues in the books they read together. Teachers then supplement additional learning through classroom activities and detailed discussions related to the books and their related genres.

In2books pen pals are adults of various ages and professions, and must all undergo a background check to be accepted into the program. Every letter written by a pen pal is reviewed and approved by teachers before it is shared with the student. Pen pals are given access to multiple online resources to help them be effective, including instruction in letter writing, sample letters and vocabulary, and key questions for consideration for each book in the curriculum.

The curriculum of the program is comprised of age-appropriate, high quality books that are chosen by a team of children's literature experts, and include realistic fiction, social science, biography, folktales, and science genres. Each unit of the curriculum lasts four to six weeks and provides education in core literacy skills including reading comprehension, word study, fluency, and critical thinking.

Goal / Mission

The goal of In2Books is to promote reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in students grades three through five through partnership with a pen pal, and provide teachers with a structured curriculum designed to enhance their students' learning experiences.

Results / Accomplishments

In2books has been shown to statistically significantly improve scores on reading achievement tests and student literacy. A quasi-experimental study was completed in 2004 to compare In2Books classrooms to other classrooms in Washington, DC public schools in grades two, three, and four. Results showed that students in each grade level from In2Books classrooms scored significantly higher on the Sanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition (SAT-9) than students who did not participate in an In2Books program. Four practices were cited as leading to higher reading test scores, including reading age-appropriate, high quality books from different genres, reading the program books more than once and having the chance to discuss them, writing the letters to pen pals through a process approach to writing, and participating in ongoing professional development.

The Center for Research and Educational Policy (CREP) also completed a report on the results of a 2003 In2Books teacher survey designed to gauge the perceptions of teachers participating in In2Books programs in Washington, DC. Most teachers (62%) said that educational changes were made as a result of the In2Books program, that their students like In2Books, and that communicating with the pen pals was valuable to students.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Penny Crane, In2Books Program Manager
Education / Literacy
Education / School Resources
Education / Student Performance K-12
Date of implementation
Virtual Program
For more details
Target Audience
Additional Audience
Teachers, Educators

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