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.
Our research Children and Young People's Letter Writing, shows that almost twice as many children and young people who write letters at least once a month write above the level expected for their age compared with those who do not write letters (23.9% compared to 13.5%).
In a survey of 32,000 children and young people aged between eight and 18-years-old, published to coincide with the Royal Mail's Letter Writing Week, we found that more than a quarter (26.7%) of children and young people write letters at least once a month. These young letter writers are more likely to be girls than boys (30.2% compared to 23%). However it is real shame that as children get older they write fewer letters. More than a third (35.3%) of children aged between eight and 11-years-old write letters outside class, but this more than halves to just 16.5% of 14-16-year-olds.
Taking the time to sit and write a letter by hand feels much more personal than typing an email, both for the writer and the recipient. Receiving a letter, particularly one expressing gratitude, sympathy or the latest news in familiar handwriting, makes the message seem more powerful and heartfelt than receiving an email saying exactly the same words.
The survey shows that nearly twice as many young people (48.9%) who write letters think writing is cool compared with 28.1% of children who don't write letters. Children who write letters are more likely to agree that if they are a better writer, they will get a better job when they grow up than children who do not write letters (61% compared to 51.4%).
This underlines the fact that writing letters regularly improves a child's literacy which will enable them to do better at school and throughout their lives. I hope they will continue writing letters to keep their family and friends posted on their progress.
The National Literacy Trust is a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy. We run projects in the poorest communities, campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians and parents, and support schools. To find out more, visit www.literacytrust.org.uk