In an age of email, texting and blogging: is there a case for sending a letter?
It all started with my fourth and fifth grade students begging to set up class Skype sessions with some of their favorite authors. In the past, we had arranged teleconferencing with classrooms and students in other countries during World Read-Aloud Day, so why not invite the authors that we love?
“Okay,” I said. “If we’re going to contact authors, how do we reach them?” And thus began the Great Library Scavenger Hunt to find contact information of favorite authors. As a class we searched within author websites, looked in books for publishers, and then paired up for an online search. We discovered that most well-known authors prefer to be contacted by mail, via their publishers.
I set up a quick lesson in letter writing: the envelope, the stamp, the return address. About 25% of my students have sent letters by post, so we listened to their experiences. “I received a letter from my grandmother in India,” said one. “I wrote to my aunt in Colombia,” said another.
The class settled into a quiet hush, when I told them that when I was their age the internet as we know it didn’t exist, and neither did email. By the wide-eyed expressions on their faces, I might as well have said, “I am an alien from another planet.” They tried to imagine a world where a telephone phone call or postal mail was the only way to communicate with someone far away.
Fast forward to our present world: the autumn of 2016. Here we are at a school in Saudi Arabia, engaged and connected in a digital landscape of cell phones, Instagram and Facebook. Today’s discovery? To reach most of the authors who we love, we must write a good, old-fashioned letter.