The arrival of the postman with the latest instalment of news from a pen pal or a favourite aunt evokes childhood memories for those of us who grew up before the era of text messages and emails. Although the postman mainly delivers junk mail now - even bills have gone online - I'm glad to report that the art of letter writing is still alive.
The government is launching a new campaign this week to encourage better reading among the young: "Read On. Get On". Based on a report that links the inability to "read well" with potential joblessness later in life, it's the latest of many articles and reports bemoaning a decline in traditional reading skills among young people.
The 'Read On. Get On' campaign has an historic goal - to eliminate illiteracy. It may surprise some that in this country with its literary heritage, its leading universities, its Nobel laureates, its history and its world-class economy, that illiteracy should remain untamed and intractable. Yet one in five 11-year-olds are still leaving primary school struggling with the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Former children's minister Tim Loughton said last week that improving educational outcomes is the key to tackling youth unemployment. He's absolutely right, and it is early intervention programmes like ours that can help to ensure the most disadvantaged young children and teenagers are able to achieve their full academic, and personal, potential.
At face value, the results of the OECD's PISA survey out this week are concerning. Overall the UK ranked 26th out of 65 countries. We were 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science. The results have led to political bickering between the Coalition and Labour, each blaming the other for the UK's results.
The pleasures and benefits of reading are still denied to many children - in 2012, one in eight left primary school unable to read to the required standard. Beanstalk trains volunteers to give one-to-one support to children who have fallen behind with their reading, using the delights of storytelling to enthuse and enrich them.