Family pen pals
(Reprinted from 10.8.1998)       

 Remember the thrill of receiving mail when you were a kid? I do!

         Keep your family connections going, wherever the kids’ grandparents,
cousins, aunts and uncles live by providing opportunities for your children to
write to their far-off relatives and friends.

         With the e-mail connections that many of us have, it is easy keep in touch
over the miles. Your children are budding writers, too, so include them in the
process. But e-mail doesn’t offer the same variety afforded by traditional mail.

         “I’m sending your picture to Aunt Zelda and Uncle Roscoe in Oshkosh,”
you tell your little ones. “Let’s put in letters and drawings to cousins Ike and
Mamie, too.” The family sits down to communicate with their cousins.

         Perhaps a relative with time on her hands can write regularly to your kids.
The children  learn that writing has a purpose, and can send a story or picture to
them to keep up the relationship.

 In addition to the short note that is going out now, maybe you can include
a photocopy of the latest book report, science fair project, or original story
written at school. Once the ball gets rolling, you will find lots of things to send

         If a constant correspondence between two households is not what you
care to do, set up a circular route through which material is mailed. You mail to
the cousins in Buffalo, they add to it and send it off to Bradenton, then it goes on
to Phoenix and San Diego before it comes back to you. Each time you get it,
you take out your oldest piece(s) and send along something new. Promise each
other that you will put something in the mail within a week after you receive your

         No matter how much is able to be sent from one household to another by
e-mail, the kids will appreciate it much more when you announce, “You’ve got
mail,” than when the mechanical voice on the computer does it. The joyous
byproduct of this exchange is that you are keeping your family connections
going at the same time that you are showing your children that writing has a

         This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents.

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