Writing and reading go hand in hand, each helping to develop the other. But in today’s digital world, it’s not common to see children sitting down with a pen and paper to write. Which, according to studies, could actually be hindering them from fully developing skills such as reading comprehension and more.
Recent academic publications, such as Steve Graham’s and Michael Hebert’s Writing to Read, a Carnegie Corporation report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education, states that writing—specifically spelling out words and formulating the construction of sentences and paragraphs—improves reading comprehension as well as critical thinking and learning skills.
But how do we inspire children to write more? Pen pals are the perfect way to expose your kids to a form of writing that doesn’t feel so academic. And, in turn, gets them excited to keep writing for fun on a regular basis. Along with reading comprehension, there are several other important skills kids can build by writing to a pen pal—social skills, learning about other cultures, spelling and grammar, and even responsibility.
Mastering the ability to retain information at an early age will be an enormous advantage to any young student. Reading comprehension is the foundational building block for learning every subject and retaining information. Reading a letter with the intention of responding to it requires active reading, as opposed to skimming or reading without a purpose. And during active reading, a child is building their reading comprehension.
Developing Social Skills
Whether your child is homeschooled or not, developing social skills is a process. And it’s an important one—one they will use to make friends; interview for jobs; and, eventually, use in their careers. Taking time to sit down, read someone else’s thoughts and learn about their experiences, and then consider how to respond is a great place to start.
Pen pals start out as strangers, but as the letters go back and forth, friendships develop. Writing helps children learn to express thoughts, share feelings, and tell stories at their own pace. As they practice, it will become second nature. They’ll be able to apply those interactive skills in real life.
Exposure to New Cultures
Every state in the U.S. has its own culture. Your child doesn’t have to have an international pen pal in order to experience new cultures! Northerners may not be familiar with some of the foods commonly served in the South, such as grits or collard greens, while a Southerner may never have tasted a lobster roll or understand the allure of Chicago-style pizza. A child from Wyoming may never have seen the ocean, and a Californian might marvel at a blizzard. Corresponding with a child from an unfamiliar region of the country can expose students to these interesting differences in culture and more.
Grammar, Sentence Structure, and Writing
When your kids are writing letters, they won’t even notice they’re practicing their grammar, building sentences, and perfecting their writing and spelling skills. Practice makes perfect. Once your child has the rules of writing down, they’ll start to infuse their own personality into their writing They’ll be using creativity alongside the rules they’ve been learning in homeschool and, hopefully, developing a love for reading and writing that could last a lifetime.
Responsibility and Independence
The steps required to receive and send mail are a great lesson in responsibility and independence. In order to receive a letter, they have to first send one. That requires sitting down with their thoughts to write, then enclosing the letter in an envelope, addressing it, purchasing or tracking down a stamp, and then mailing the letter. Accomplishing something on their own will motivate them to continue the process.
When your kids become accustomed to the routine of a letter coming in the mail, they’ll begin to feel anticipation and excitement, which will continue to motivate them to take responsibility for upholding their end of the pen pal relationship.
Along with all the educational benefits that come with developing a pen pal relationship, it’s actually fun. Kids enjoy receiving mail and the anticipation of a note from a new friend. Writing to pen pals is a tradition that was around long before computers, and we believe it will remain relevant no matter what new technology appears. Writing letters is not the same as writing an email. It takes more thought, there’s no autocorrect, and there’s just something about putting pen to paper that will always feel more thoughtful.