Teaching kids to write letters is such an invaluable skill. It really can’t be done enough. Later this will translate into their ability to write professionally; they will use these skills to write cover letters for resumes, business letters, memos, and appropriate thank you letters when necessary. I’ve often had my kids write to pen pals, relatives, their friends, and also practice writing and sending notes to our immediate family. Another valuable activity I’ve discovered is writing to authors.
Begin by reading some books by an author they enjoy. Talk about the stories, the characters, and the themes. Help them make a list of questions they would ask the author if s/he were here reading the stories to them.
- How do they get their ideas for stories?
- What made them want to be an author?
- Is the main character based on someone they know?
- How many times did they try to get published before experiencing success?
- What is their favorite book they’ve written?
- Which authors are their favorites?
The questions are endless! After coming up with some, tell them they CAN have a chance to “talk” to the author. . . by writing a letter! Let them draft a letter, then go through editing and revising it, and finish with a correctly formatted, spelled, and neatly written letter to the author. Encourage kids to give a little information about themselves, tell what they like most about the author or his/her books, and then ask several of the questions you brainstormed together. Most authors have contact information online, either personally or through their publishers. Send the letters and wait for your response.
In the past, we’ve not only received responses, but also received free autographed copies of books. Most authors love to encourage budding writers and will respond to a thoughtful and neatly written letter.
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