What is the Educational Value in Childhood Pen Pals in 2019?
From 2016 to 2018, mail volume with the United States Postal Service fell by 7.9 billion. Due to the ease of sending emails, messages through social media, and texts, there is far less of a need and desire to send physical letters. However, when creating an educational plan for your children, there is still plenty of value in encouraging them to find one or more pen pals. Not only do pen pals provide a valuable social relationship for kids, but researchers have recently uncovered some undeniable benefits.
Broadens cultural awareness
Although books can provide factual information about cultures across the globe, they cannot teach children as well as firsthand experience. One study that examined the themes of letters sent between youth students in Virginia (USA) and Malawi found that they most frequently discussed “daily life and culture, language, and connections.” This research also found that through this activity, the students learned how to communicate meaningfully across cultures, and gained awareness of how to better use the written word with one another. Therefore, rather than simply studying cultures online or in a book, there is tremendous value in taking time to read and write letters from pen pals.
Teaches children about how to send physical mail
Although it may still sound strange to some, children who are growing up in today’s digital era have little reason to learn about the standard, physical mail. In fact, a report from 2018 showed that many young adults do not know where to buy stamps. By teaching kids how to easily buy postage stamps online, as well as where to send their letters, you are teaching them an incredibly important lesson. Not only will they be able to send letters to their pen pal(s) on their own, but they will also learn how to send mail for their future personal and professional life. In addition to placing pen pal letters in your mailbox for pick up, taking your children to your local post office offers a bonus educational experience.
A recent evaluation of a pen pal program established at Iowa State University revealed that students can not only better achieve learning objectives when writing a pen pal, but they also gain confidence in their abilities to perform new tasks. Additionally, individuals who participated in this educationally-based pen pal program demonstrated that they could more confidently and knowledgeably describe concepts learned through their exchange of letters. Why? Drafting a hand-written letter requires careful thought about the message being communicated. The reading and writing of physical letters are also more rigorous than the effort needed in digital messaging.
Despite the many advantages of tech-based message sending, researchers continue to find the educational value of writing pen pals in 2019. While somewhat ironic, specific websites have made it easier than ever before to connect your kids with pen pals across the world. As with any situation, use caution and best judgment when seeking out a trustworthy pen pal program.