How To Get Kids To Write Letters

I read an article recently that grated at me a bit. Listen to this:

The survey has also revealed that many youngsters are leaving primary school unable to send out a letter - almost half of 11-year-olds were unsure of the right layout.

This little fact had me wondering about Simplicity Embellished. I dug through the keywords people use to find this website and one of the most popular types of keywords are things like 'How to write a letter,' 'What to write in a letter to a pen pal,' 'pen pal letter format.'

Let me tell you this--there is no right format. Letters are about communicating. What do you want to communicate? What do you want communicated back to you? THAT is your format. Maybe you get your message across through doodles on notebook paper or through a beautiful calligraphic script. When it comes to written correspondence, as long as your message is getting through--you are fine.

But! How do kids know this? Especially kids growing up on a diet of constant, abbreviated text messaging and profile status updates?

I am proud to report I've recently gotten my Little Sister through Big Brothers, Big Sisters into writing letters.

Here's what I did with her to get her started. This might work for you and a young one in your life. (I did this over a period of weeks, by the way.)

First, I started bringing up writing letters. I asked her if she'd ever had a pen pal. If she'd ever written a letter. How she would feel if she got a letter in her mailbox.

Second, I pulled out my box of letters from pen pals this year. I let her look through them- pick them up, peek inside at the contents.

"These were in your mailbox?" she asked.

"Yep," I said.

Third, having sufficiently hooked her on the concept, I pulled out a certain letter to help illustrate a very important point most kids will struggle with. You have to send out quality letters in order to get a quality letter back.

This little note was sent to me some months back. The writer scrawled on a piece of notebook paper and jammed it into an envelope--not even folded! It basically said in about two sentences that they want a pen pal, that I said on my website I will write you back, so you better. That was it.

I said, "Would you want to write this person a nice letter back?"

"Nope," she said, looking a bit shocked.

Then I pulled out a beautiful 12-page letter from a correspondent.

"Would you want to write this person back?"

"Yes!" she said. She held the thick envelope in her hands.

Fourth, I wrote her a letter. I included some blank stationery, envelopes and stamps in my letter so she'd have everything she needed to write me back.

Fifth, I got a letter from her! She even decorated it (she must have been paying attention to all the decorated letters in my box).

[We've been writing letters back and forth ever since, despite seeing each other in person every few weeks.]

I have to tell you, I felt so proud when I got a letter from her. This child had never written a letter before--ever. And what she sent me was magnificent. It was several pages long, she talked about a variety of things and asked questions. I gave her absolutely no info on what or how she should write--it just came from her. No one in her family writes letters--it was entirely within her. I feel proud just thinking about it.

OK, so here's my purpose for this post. Is there a child in your life that has never written a letter? Felt the excitement of finding a mailbox with a note addressed to them inside? See if letter writing might be a possibility.

If any of you are successful--let me know! I would love to hear your story.


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