By Kylee Harris
There’s certainly more to life than government education scores, but it’s worth noting that New Zealand’s year 5 students are currently experiencing the biggest dip in reading literacy achievement for fifteen years.
When reading scores dip, writing scores tend to follow, since these skills are so closely related.
If you’re looking for a way to boost your child’s literacy skills and create a future citizen of the world, have you considered finding them a penpal? Once a popular pastime for many current parents, letter writing has given ground over the last few years to emails and social media. Now, however, as parents seek to cut down on screen time and find more traditional ways to nurture friendships, penpals could be a popular choice.
Creating literacy lovers
As some teachers express concern at children’s physical readiness to hold a pencil correctly and formulate letters when they arrive at school, one of the best things you can do to encourage your child to write is to give them someone to write to. Practising handwriting for the sake of it can soon feel boring and formulaic, but if the task is to tell your penpal about your new swimming badge, or a funny thing that happened this weekend, suddenly writing becomes a lot more interesting. It’s also a neat opportunity to encourage writing over the holidays – short postcards are ideal for this – rather than just in term time.
A passport to the world
As a recent study highlighted a somewhat inconsistent approach to explaining global citizenship in schools, finding an international penpal can help your child to grow up as a well-informed, outward-focused individual. It shouldn’t mean hours spent in Post Office queues either; you can print stamps online and show your child a map of where their mail is heading at the same time. It’s a great way to dispel any preconceptions that your child might be unwittingly carrying about life in other countries, and there’s also the potential for travel later in life to meet their penpal and learn about another country at first hand.