The Goal? Write a Million Notes!

Writing notes of appreciation is a valuable life lesson.

My mother taught me to write thank you notes before I could really read. I knew how to write my name and I knew how to draw pictures. That was a start. It was a life lesson that I still practice today, although I draw pictures with my words now.

Thankfulness and expressing appreciation are valuable facets of the character. They help the heart grow and relationships deepen. They make the world a better place.

That’s why the Note Project press release caught my eye. I was getting ready to blog about the 2011 Toyota Family Literacy Teacher of the Year award and figured the two news items complemented each other nicely.

The Note Project is a global initiative to “make the world a better place” through notes of appreciation. I figure this blog is a “note” of sorts and serves as the perfect vehicle to laud the merits of Patricia  Urdialez, a school teacher and family literacy advocate at Longfellow Elementary in Mesa, Ariz.

Urdialez was honored this week at the National Conference on Family Literacy in Louisville, Ky., winning $10,000 for her literacy program which offers parenting classes, as well as education classes and other community initiatives for children and adults. Also honored were award runners-up Shari Meadow Brown of the Caldwell County Family Literacy program in Lenoir, N.C.; Lisa Lokesak of Family Literacy Nights in Walton, Ky.; and Cheryl Williams of the Norfolk Family Literacy program in Norfolk, Va. Each runner-up received $500 for her program.

I tip my hat to these giving women (and many others), who have opened up the world of words and opportunity to hundreds of men, women and children.

Not to be overlooked is Big Universe’s own blogger Melissa Edwards, a district instructional technologist with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, who helped present a conference breakout session, titled “What’s So Wonderful about Wonderopolis.” She and her co-facilitators shared their school and classroom experiences with Wonderopolis, the National Center for Family Literacy’s learning website.

More About the Note Project

The Note Project, which launched yesterday, is a global enterprise to encourage one million expressions of appreciation. Such notes benefit the sender as much as the recipient, says Note Project founder Mike O’Mary. “A simple note of appreciation can change a person’s life,” he said.

On his website, Mr. O’Mary cites a letter he once received from his youngest sister. “That note healed years of self-doubt for me and taught me firsthand about the power of appreciation.”

I think the Note Project is a good way to inspire the children in your life to explore thoughts, feelings and empathy. Learning how to distill thoughts and emotions into a few powerful sentences is of great value. I know how powerful heart-felt thank-you notes can be. I’ve received them. And, when I send sincere notes of appreciation to people, I invariably get a response. “You made my day,” “Your note meant so much” and so forth.

The Note Project website includes a lesson plan to support teachers who want to teach the importance of appreciation. The lesson plan includes discussion questions, activities and inspiring quotes. Students conclude the lesson by writing and sending a note to someone.

Big Universe has many books about friendship and appreciating others. They would fit nicely with the lesson on appreciation. Here are just a few you could read:

  • I Thank God for You,” a Twin Sisters book written by Kim Thompson and illustrated by Carol Schwartz
  • One Smile,” an Illumination Arts book written by Cindy McKinley and illustrated by Mary Gregg Byrne
  • The Doll Lady,” an Illumination Arts book written by H. Elizabeth Collins and illustrated by Judy Kuusisto
  • You are a Really Good Friend of Mine,” an International Step by Step Association book written by Laura Liliom and illustrated by Lilit Vagharshyan

 “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

Big Universe, a literacy-minded web community of 66,300 members, offers thousands of online children’s picture books for teachers, parents and their K-8 students, as well as a kid-friendly Author Tool to encourage a love of language, creativity and writing.

Note: You might like to read “Teachers: Girders to Grow On,” my blog of appreciation to the educators in my life during my childhood and teenage years.


  • This was my first year attending the National Conference for Family Literacy. I learned so much and met so many wonderful people. I was so surprised to look at this blog post and find my name. Wonderopolis is a great project of the National Council for Family Literacy … maybe that will be a future blog topic … my mind is spinning thinking of all the way Wonderopolis and Big Universe could be used together.
    Thanks again for mentioning me! :)

  • Suzan Woodard

    Melissa – Yes, the literacy conference itinerary in Louisville sounded awesome – a real opportunity to exchange ideas and to gain inspiration. It’s people like you, Patricia Urdialez, my sister, Carolyn, and the educators in my daughters’ lives, who have made a real impact on the future.

    It may be hard to measure, but rest assured you are making a difference in the field of education and through literacy advocacy. You are touching lives. Mine was changed forever by the teachers, librarians and coaches in my life! I wrote about that in “Teachers: Girders to Grow On,” a Big Universe blog that appeared in September 2009.

    So, keep pressing on, Melissa!

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