The Dying Art of Letter Writing as E-Mails Take over Our Lives; but Child Expert Says Children Are Missing Out

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 21, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Dying Art of Letter Writing as E-Mails Take over Our Lives; but Child Expert Says Children Are Missing Out


Byline: Sally Williams

IT was once the cornerstone of polite communication - but it seems that among today's children letter writing is a dying art.

More than a quarter of seven to 14-year-olds have not written a letter in the past year, and one in 10 has never written one, according to a new survey.

But the study by World Vision to mark its National Letter Writing Day found that in the previous week half of youngsters had written an e-mail or posted a quick message on a social networking site.

In response to the survey experts have warned that those children who do not write letters are missing out.

"Handwritten letters are much more personal than electronic communication," said child education expert Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood.

"If children do not write or receive letters they miss out on key developmental benefits.

"By going to the trouble of physically committing words to paper, the writer shows their investment of time and effort in a relationship.

"That's why we tend to hang on to personal letters as keepsakes.

"The effort of writing is a very real one for a child.

"Painstakingly manoeuvring the pencil across the page, thinking of the best words to convey a message, struggling with spelling and punctuation.

"It is an effort worth making, because it's only through practice that we become truly literate - and literacy is the hallmark of human civilisation."

The poll also found that more than four in 10 children have not received a letter in the past year and 20% say they have never received one.

In contrast, more than half (52%) have received an e-mail or message on a social networking site in the last week.

The figures also reveal that many youngsters are leaving primary school unable to set out a letter - almost half of 11-year-olds (45%) are unsure of the right layout.

BBC broadcaster and former headteacher, Roy Noble, said while he can understand that this generation of children use texts and e-mail to communicate, he believes you can't beat an old-fashioned letter for that personal touch.

"It is easy to see why children are getting out of the habit of writing letters, but there is a certain charm that comes with a letter arriving in the post among the usual brown envelopes and circulars," he said.

"I think it is important for children to know how to set out a letter, with the correct terms for personal and professional occasions.

"I have letter writing in my bloodstream, and I was brought up to send thank-you letters at Christmas and family updates to individual family members abroad. …

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