Monday, June 22, 2015


There was a time before Facebook and Flickr when people mailed picture postcards to friends and family as they traveled on vacation. They were often called penny postcards because the stamp cost just a penny. Here is one from Washington, D.C. in which the writer - Celinda, my grandmother - tells of voting and attending a luncheon with other Daughters of the American Revolution from Ohio. Youll also notice that this 1935 postcard bears an address with just a name and a town!

Why not make this the summer to bring back the pleasure of picture postcards and summer letters? A dear friend of mine who goes to Minnesota to fish every summer often writes four to six page letters by hand; they cant be read on the fly as we do with emails and Facebook posts. They must be savored, as I visualize the family members or fishing adventures he describes.

Debbie Levy devotes her award-winning book, The Year of Good-Byes: A True Story of Friendship, Family, and Farewells, to the beauty and emotional power of much shorter handwritten notes.  The notes include drawings and poetry in a poesiealbum, or autograph book, kept by Debbies mother Jutta during her last year in Germany in 1938. Young readers continue to add their own poetry to Debbies Poesiealbum Project.

In Valerie Tripps American Girl book, Changes for Kit, Kit Kittredge writes a letter to the editor dictated by her uncle. She disagreed with it so completely that she wrote her own - and the newspaper printed hers! The teachers who developed the website Books Kids Love include a long list of titles perfect for encouraging letter writing.

Letters help us preserve memories, make political statements or just add pleasure to a friends day. Encourage students to write and send a picture postcard from wherever they are going this summer - or even from their own hometown.  It is a chance to practice the mechanics of writing an address correctly when it includes more than just a @ and a dot. The space on a postcard is small enough that even reluctant writers might be inspired. A 140-character Tweet would fit just fine!

Encourage students to
   describe something colorful or interesting in a few carefully chosen words, or
   tell what they have been doing so that the reader could visualize it, or
   make a connection with the reader by mentioning something they have in common that relates to the picture or place (hearing a band they both like, seeing a funny dog or cat, flying a kite on the beach), or
   send postcards to a teacher at school so they can be shared in the fall.

Wishing everyone a lovely summer, filled with books - and letters!

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