good old-fashioned correspondence




A few years ago I posted a list of ways we can encourage our kids to practice reading and writing at home. One strategy I suggested (I believe it was #7) was having your kid write a letter to an adult relative or friend, and making sure that adult (i.e., coordinating with him/her ahead of time!) immediately sends a letter back–preferably with a treat enclosed.

My boys are older now (14 and 10), and I’m still as determined as ever to have them practice expressing themselves in words, by hand, on paper, on a regular basis.  The incentives have changed, though. The ten-year-old received the stationary pictured above for his birthday, along with the weekly task of writing a one-page letter to his Uncle Steve (who was down with the idea and agreed to write back now and then).

Cutesie stationary wouldn’t have done the trick anymore, here–he needed something a) personalized, so his older brother can’t horn in b) dignified- thus the gold-leaf envelope liners, the gold foil seals, the “from the desk of..” letterhead, and c) gadget-cool- in the form of a self-inking return address stamp (again, personalized with his name). I purchased it all at Staples, and ran a stack of the paper through the printer with the help of the free letterhead template that came with the kit.

It’s quite a process for him, each week, from the choosing of the pen to the folding, sealing, sticker-applying, addressing and stamping, strolling to the mailbox. It’s a ritual. And four months in, he seems to be enjoying the ritual a lot.

[This fancy-pants stationary set would fail to impress a fourteen-year-old, of course. Mine writes a letter each week to his Grandpa. The rule for him is one page of regular foolscap, single spaced, margin to margin. I don’t read either of the kids’ letters, but he has to hold it up so I can see he’s filled the page before I log him onto the computer for Minecraft. Different kid/age, different incentive!]

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