Throughout history, letters were the chosen method of communication for all sorts of information. Even today, people participate in a close approximation of this art form, email. Despite this, there is a very big difference between a letter and an email. Yes, email can be more quickly drafted and fired off to be received moments later by the addressee. Letters, however, take time—in writing and in sending.
In the spring, Arizona students in grades 3 and above will be taking the AzMERIT test. This test was implemented last spring and the test is very different from the AIMS test which had been given to students for the last fifteen years. In a brochure put out by the Arizona Department of Education, the portions of the test are described in detail, including one of the major changes. The Writing section “will require students to read a few passages and then write about them. This type of task requires students to think deeper about topics and use evidence to support their thinking.”
Letter writing is a way to familiarize your child with the writing process. It is also a low-pressure way to help them find ways to get their thoughts out of their heads and onto the page, which will help them immeasurably in school overall. But having this experience with writing and composition can give them confidence that can lessen the potential for test anxiety when standardized testing comes up in the spring. It could also help familiarize them with writing conventions, which will be a help with the editing tasks in the Reading section of the test.
Think back to when you were younger. Did your parents send you to the mailbox to get the mail? Do you remember the first time you received a letter from a friend or family member, addressed to you? How did it make you feel? “Taking the time to sit and write a letter feels much more personal than typing an email, both for the writer and the recipient. Receiving a letter, particularly one expressing gratitude, sympathy, or the latest news in familiar handwriting, makes the message seem more powerful and heart felt than receiving an email saying exactly the same words,” according to Jonathan Douglas, the Director of the UK’s National Literacy Trust.
Treasure in the Trash
While most of a person’s mail as they get older is junk mail, flyers, and letters from people wanting to sell us insurance or a new roof, in addition to the bills, of course, it is nice to find an envelope amongst the muck written in a familiar script or scrawling block print or maybe in the unpracticed hand of a child learning to write. Just seeing that envelope can make a person smile and turn their day around.
There is joy to be found in letter writing as well as receiving. It is a wonderful way to share your news with family and friends that live far away. It can also be a special way for a parent to just tell a child they are thinking about them, even if the note you write is just slipped into their lunch or their coat pocket, or tucked under their pillow at night. Or you can go a step further—mail the letter from work or the post office in order to pass along that sense of wonder at finding an envelope in the mailbox with their name on it.
Children & Young People’s Letter Writing
The National Literacy Trust in Britain published a report in September 2015, in which they found that letter writing can affect a child’s attitude toward writing and discovered a link between this task and “wider writing outcomes” stating, “children who write letters are more likely to write daily outside of class.” Letter writers also tend to think writing is cool, they think more positively about writing than children who do not regularly write letters.