The art of handwritten letters seems almost archaic at this point. In fact, the average household received just one personal letter every 10 weeks — and that was back in 2015. And text messages are even being shortened to symbols and fragments.
Sure, the ability to get messages across to others quickly can be very convenient and helpful at times, but we believe there is still such value in slowing down and composing a letter.
At Kippewa, campers go technology-free and the only way they communicate to their friends and family is by writing letters. We see this process as a valuable tool for a few reasons:
Writing letters allows for the us to simply slow down. Camp, and life, can be so busy. We are constantly stimulated from outside sources, and writing letters allows a focus that is not present with quick text messages or Snapchat videos or emojis or even, sometimes, speech.
The personal and sometimes soul-baring way letters enable us to communicate can be therapeutic for some. We allow ourselves the time to really decide what we want to say and how we want to say it. It allows us to reflect on our time and our feelings and express these emotions in a safe way.
Cultivation of Writing Skills
From an educational perspective, letter writing is a great way to teach the mechanics of writing. Young people are motivated to write and it allows them to see that writing can be fun because it’s not just about school work. At camp, the girls are writing to their favorite people.
Studies also show that kids who write letters when they are young are more likely to write letters when they are older. And many young people don’t even know how to address an envelope or position a stamp because they have literally never done it before. At camp, every camper writes letters and learns how to properly compose a letter all the way through.
Letter writing can help foster the concept of delayed gratification. When you sit down to write to your friend or your parent, you are not receiving an instant response. There is an anticipation on receiving a return. Delayed gratification shouldn’t be something that causes stress or anxiety.
Artistry of Communication
In contrast with a fast-paced social media world, letter writing causes us to pause and become aware of the artistry of communication, and not just the speed and utility of electronic communication. By slowing down, the tools of planning and editing come back into play. The impulse to share becomes thoughtful. We know that the recipient of our letter is going to really be interested in what we are saying. We give a meaningful message and look forward to a meaningful response.
Even though just about everything we do is saved somewhere in a cloud or a drive, letters become a special kind of memory that we can look back on for years to come. I still have letters and notes that I received from friends at camps and at schools and other activities and ever so often, I bring them out and read over them — maybe it was a birthday card from my mother or my grandfather or a note from a best friend. These pieces of paper become something much more than a fast-paced text. They become part of our journey.
Our Valentine’s Day gift this year to current camp families was a set of pre-scripted cards for campers to use while at camp this summer. We really hope that these cards help make writing even more fun and help facilitate things to write about if a camper is struggling. Because most young people aren’t used to writing letters, sometimes it’s good to have some prompts to really get the ideas going.
And again, we want it to be exciting! We hope that campers of all ages really have a blast with it because no matter the age, we truly believe in the power of letter writing and the power of just slowing down and allowing a full range of expression to shine through.