When was the last time you received a hand-written letter in the mail? In this age of email and texting, letter writing is fast becoming a lost form of communication. I, personally, am not ready to say goodbye. So I urge you to keep this worthwhile activity alive by encouraging your child to write letters. Here are some ways you can get this done:
1) Thank-you Notes
When your child receives a gift, she should absolutely write a thank-you card. This tradition can start at a very young age. Before your child is even a writer, she could illustrate on the card that you write on her behalf. She can be incharge of putting the stamp on the envelope and putting the letter in the mailbox. When she’s a bit older and can sign her name, she should do so on all thank-you cards. By this point, she should also be able to help you think of the message to written inside the card. As your child begins to write, give her more responsibility. Ask her to come up with the message on her own. She can dictate some of the trickier words to you and then she can be in charge of writing the easier words herself. Once your child is a proficient writer, she should be able to take over all aspects of the letter-writing process.
2) Pen pals
One exciting way to get your child writing letters is to enroll in a pen pal program. There are many programs you can find online that will connect you with a child from another part of the world. To get your child excited, let him pick the country from which he wants to find a pen pal. Make a trip to the library and get books on the country to get him excited and curious. When reading the books together, take notes on questions your child has about the country that he can ask in a pen pal letter. Display all the letters your child receives from the pen pal in a spot for all visitors to enjoy. The bigger deal you make about having a pen pal, the more engaged your child will become.
Every time your child goes on a trip, have her get in the habit of sending postcards to one or more family members or friends. Postcards are small enough so that she’ll only need to write a few quick sentences. Encourage her to get away from generic messages (e.g. “I’m having fun in France. See you when I get back!”) and instead focus on a specific moment (e.g. “I just returned from the Eiffel Tower. We went all the way up to the top. It was very windy up there!”) Chances are, if your child is good about writing postcards to friends and family, there’s a good chance those same friends and family members will take the time to write a postcard to her the next time they travel.
4) Fan Letters
Want to prove to your child the power of the written word? Try writing fan letters to a favourite sports player, actor, artist, astronaut, etc. Many people in the spotlight have a staff member dedicated to responding to these letters often with personalised messages back or even photos or other memorabilia. How fun it would be for your child to get a letter back from his favourite celebrity!
As with most other literacy activities at home, parents can be good role models for letter writing. Take the time to write your own letters and get your child involved in the process by helping to mail the letter. Show them that you value the importance of letter writing as well. If enough of us encourage this habit, perhaps this next generation won’t ignore letter writing after all.