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News story

We celebrate Blue Peter’s 60th birthday with new letter writing research

30 Oct 2018

Wellbeing - girls writing

Blue Peter, the world’s longest running children’s television show, has just turned 60!

To celebrate, we have published new research today which shows that letter writing is growing in popularity among children and young people, and that its benefits are far reaching.

How many children are writing letters?

Our survey of 42,363 children and young people aged 8 to 18 from across the UK found that 36.7% write letters in their free time, up from 28.9% in 2011. Over this same time period, Blue Peter has seen a monumental rise in the number of letters it receives from kids hoping to secure a Blue Peter badge, rocketing from 44,000 in 2011 to 105,000 so far this year.

Why are children writing, or not writing, letters?

Children and young people say they mostly write letters to stay in touch with family and friends (52.7%) or to make the person they are writing to happy (47.8%). Children also say that writing letters makes them feel happy (33.8%) and helps them express their feelings (30.7%).

Despite the increasing popularity of letter writing among children and young people, 2 in 3 (63.3%) still don’t write letters in their free time. These children say they don’t write letters because they prefer to write emails or text messages (59.4%), they don’t know what to write (33.6%) or they don’t have time (33.3%).

What are the benefits of letter writing?

Our research found that letter writers are better writers: children who write letters are more likely to enjoy writing (65.3% vs 40.4%), write something daily (23.8% vs 13.5%) and rate their writing skills as above average (47.8% vs 33.3%) than their peers who don’t write letters. Not only that, but these children are also more likely to enjoy reading (71.0% vs 48.5%), have high levels of literacy engagement (40.5% vs 17.6%) and be happier with their lives (7.69 vs 7.16 out of 10).

Alongside our research, Oxford University Press’s Children’s Corpus analysed 1,000 letters sent to Blue Peter in 2016 and found that children who wrote to Blue Peter had high levels of social awareness and sensitivity, as well as strong persuasive language skills.

Our Director, Jonathan Douglas, said: "We are delighted that children and young people’s letter writing is at an all-time high in 2018 – the very year that the National Literacy Trust is celebrating its 25th anniversary and Blue Peter is turning 60. Not only does letter writing help children and young people become more confident writers and flourish at school, but we now know it can also play a role in supporting children’s mental wellbeing by enabling them to express their feelings, keep in touch with friends and loved ones, and feel happy.”

You can read our full report here.

We have lots of letter writing inspiration for your classroom. For a topical activity, download our free First World War Centenary resources for Key Stages 2, 3 and 4. Developed in partnership with the Royal British Legion, the resources encourage students to write thank you letters to individuals whose contribution to the war effort is not typically remembered.

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