Receiving post is incredibly exciting for children (and adults!). As we are all forced to slow down our pace of life, it’s the perfect time to pick up a pen and spend some time writing a letter. Not only will it give students an authentic purpose and audience for their writing, but it will also (hopefully) result in a really special letter to treasure and keep for a very long time! The possibility of receiving a reply from their favourite author will do wonders for their engagement!
Not only that, letter writing is also an essential life skill – we’ve all had to write a letter at some point in time – and encouraging children to write letters will improve their communication skills, their handwriting and will teach them about how to structure letters properly. So, let’s get cracking!
(Note to parents/teachers, before you start this task you may wish to double-check their favourite author is still alive, particularly if the book is an older classic).
1) Talk about your favourite book
Make a cuppa or a glass of juice, grab a snack or treat, your favourite book and a blanket and settle down for some lovely book blether!
What is the best book you have ever read? What did you like best about this book? What did you like least about this book? What other books did this remind you of? Which characters in the book did you like best? Which characters did you like least? Why? Did it have illustrations? What did you like about the pictures? Did someone recommend the book to you? If you were making a movie of this book, who would you cast? Share a favourite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out? What other books by this author have you read? How did they compare to this book? Would you read another book by this author? Why or why not? What feelings did this book evoke for you? What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add? What songs does this book make you think of? If you got the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?
[Please note: If your child does not have a favourite book/author and you’re struggling with this task, consider who else they might like to write to… The editor of their favourite children’s magazine? Their favourite sportsperson (Joe Wicks is doing a great job at the moment!)? Or perhaps simply friends or family who are self-isolating?]
2) Introduce letter-writing
Show a few examples of different letters (this could include informal postcards and birthday cards etc too). Consider whether they are formal or informal – how do you know? Which were written to friends? Which are from businesses? You could look specifically at:
- Addresses — where are these, how are they laid out on the page, whose addresses are they?
- Greeting — is it formal or informal?
- Style of letter — is it friendly or business? Can you pick out key words that tell us whether it’s formal or informal?
- What is the body of the letter about?
- How does the letter end?
Allow children to sort the letters into two piles – ‘formal’ and ‘informal’.
Follow this with a discussion about different types of letters that you have all written. Why did you write them? Who were they for? Then discuss which letters you have each received. How did it feel to receive a letter? Why is it so special? Discuss who you would write a formal letter to and who you would write an informal letter to. What about authors?
3) Writing a formal letter to your favourite author
Letters to your favourite author should be quite informal as you don’t actually know them in person! Formal letters are usually written on A4 paper and include the following layout:
- The sender’s address is put in the top right hand corner (always ask permission from parents/teachers before including any personal details. If you’re writing this at school use the school’s address if possible).
- Leave a line, then write the author’s address on the left hand side.
- Leave a line, then write the full date, e.g. Tuesday 7th April 2020.
- Leave a line, then write your greeting.
- The body of your letter (usually 2-4 paragraphs – if you’re not sure what to include read Wiki How’s Guide to Writing Fanmail for some ideas to expand on).
- Complimentary close (Yours Sincerely or Yours Faithfully).
- Your signature.
- Your full name in block capitals to ensure the author knows exactly who is sending the letter (once again, do double-check check parental consent for use of names when letter writing!).
Remember to write a draft first so that you can revise and improve it. Then ask someone to help you proofread it for spelling and punctuation errors before you write it up in neat.
You may also wish to include an illustration of your favourite character or part in the story! Authors always love to see your drawings as well as your letter writing!
4) Addressing the envelope
If you’re writing to an author, you will usually need to address your letter to his or her publisher so that they can ensure it gets to them. Look inside the cover of your favourite book and you will usually find the name of the publisher (and usually their address too!). Alternatively, if they have their own website you may be able to find an address on their ‘Contact Me’ page.
Neatly address the envelope and add a stamp. For example:
Author Marcus Sedgwick
c/o Orion Publishing Group Ltd
5 Upper St Martin’s Lane
You may also wish to decorate your envelope to make it really stand out! Add your stamp in the top right hand corner and post it when you are out for your daily walk!
5) Wait for a response!
There is something really special about receiving post that is delivered by the postman or woman (they are also essential key workers doing an incredible job to keep our lines of communication open!). Seeing a brightly coloured stamp and knowing that there’s a letter inside for you is very exciting! You cannot always guarantee that the author will respond, but often they do! And if they do, it will be a really special letter for you to treasure and keep and read over and over again!
…Share and Connect!
We’d love to hear whether or not you enjoyed writing your letter and whether you received a reply! You can either comment in the box below or post a photo on social media (you can find me on Facebook and Twitter) using the hashtag #literacywithmissp
Miss P x