The Super Power Agency, an Edinburgh based nonprofit focused on increasing youth literacy in young people aged 8 – 18 recently had a book launch for its newest youth publication, Through the Years: Connecting Present to Past. The book is based on their intergenerational pen pals project that took place from October – December of 2018. Gerald Richards (GR) and Rory Brown (RB) gave The Fountain an insight into the process and informed us about their hopes for the book.

TF: You’ve been involved in the student publication, what inspired this idea? 

RB: Well, really Gerald was the driving force behind the idea. It was an idea he’d wanted to try for a long time in a previous outfit and was given the chance to give it a try here.

GR: This was based on a workshop done at one of the 826 National chapters in America. The idea of bridging generations and having them find out about each other was a great fit for the Broughton High School English Department to teach their pupils about other people.  

TF: Can you tell us a bit more about the process, it sounds like a fun one?

RB: The process was great. Every Friday we would spend last period in the library writing letters. The superpower agency would flood the library with volunteers and we would support the pupils in writing their letters. It was quite something to see teenager’s face light up when being handed a beautiful handwritten letter. It was clear from this that they had never ever had this experience before. I doubt they’d ever been sent post, never mind a letter just for them. We saw a definite increase in motivation after that and what started out as short functional letters became long and detailed stories and questions about loads of different topics.  

It was great to see the pupils finally meet their penpals at our ‘Big Meet’ event in the school library. We had planned a range of activities and for people to speak as we didn’t think they’d talk for a long time however none of it was needed and the kids and their VIP’s talked extensively for the whole time. It was quite an emotional moment.

GR: Here is a link to a video of the Big Meet between the students and their pen pals.

TF: And you’ve launched it at Summerhall, what was the reception like?

RB: The reception was fantastic. It was clear that many of the pupils didn’t actually believe that we’d have their letters printed into a real book and so the look on their faces when they first held it in their hand was incredible. It was also lovely seeing an event just for them, it’s rare that pupils get the opportunity to have their achievements celebrated in that way and the grand setting of Summerhall made this even better.   

TF: Will you be taking this publication anywhere else or is this it for just now?  

RB: I think Gerald will be best placed to answer this, but I do think we are hoping to try again next year.  

GR: We hope to create an exhibit and sell the books at one of our book shop partners. We also hope to make a series of pen pals books where different classes from Edinburgh schools get to interact and write with others from other countries and other circumstances, giving them a chance to connect and learn about other people.

TF: What are the rest of your plans for distribution, will it be widely distributed?  

RB: Again, Gerald will be best placed to add to this.

GR: The book is on sale on the Super Power Agency website and in two shops in Edinburgh, Scottish Design Exchange in Ocean Terminal and Typerwronger Books on Leith Walk. We hope to expand our partnerships to include other book stores to carry our student publications.