There’s something about receiving a real letter, the kind you can hold in your hands and pore over again and again if you wish. It is an experience that may be foreign to your kids unless you make the effort to get them writing letters. After all, if they send enough letters, they’re bound to get some replies.
Letter writing reinforces the idea that writing is an important skill that extends beyond school assignments. When your kids are writing letters, you’ll want to encourage them to write neatly and use proper spelling and grammar, but letter writing ought to be mostly about sharing thoughts and ideas with another person. By writing letters, your child can develop her sense of voice and grow in confidence as she practices expressing herself with the written word.
There are several things you can do to encourage your child’s writing endeavors, and summer can be the perfect time to get started. Begin with one or more of the following ideas.
Set up a writing center with an assortment of paper, envelopes, pencils and pens, stickers, rubber stamps, watercolor paints and/or any other letter writing supplies that you already have around the home. For fun and added interest, you may wish to add a few new purchases that are intended especially for your writing center. Whether you have a special desk devoted to writing or just a well-stocked caddy, remember that easy access is key.
Suggest your child make a list of people he’d like to write to. This should include obvious people like grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, but then keep brainstorming. Perhaps your child wants to write to a favorite author or a teacher who has made a lasting impression on him. Maybe he could send a letter to a friend or sibling who is away at camp.
Begin with a goal of sending one letter a week. If it seems hard for your child to get started, suggest she draw or paint a picture and then write a few sentences below explaining what she has drawn. Help her come up with some questions to ask in the letter also so that the recipient is more likely to respond.
Look for opportunities to write thank you notes. Whenever you write one yourself, share what you have written with your kids before sending it on its way. Or let them read the thank you notes you receive because modeling is a powerful type of teaching. If your child receives a gift, help him draft a thank you note. Suggest he includes some details about why he likes the gift or how he plans to use it. Writing thank you notes will help instill a habit of expressing gratitude, which will serve him well throughout life.
Read some books that feature letter writing. Again, this is about providing models of letters that may inspire their own writing. You may want to check one or more of the following epistolary stories out of the library:
Dear Peter Rabbit by Alma Flor Ada
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse
By Anita Dualeh