Research Finds That Pen Pals Are Still Highly Valuable for Students

As of 2017, adults between the ages of 18 and 34 now receive only 10 pieces of mail each week. This number has fallen sharply since 2001, when the same age group received about 17 pieces per week. Even though technology has made it easier than ever before to instantly send messages (especially among younger individuals), the act of writing letters to pen pals across the globe is more relevant than ever before. Explore what the latest research has revealed about connecting students with pen pals.

Enhances foreign language learning

Currently, an estimated 20% of K-12 students in the United States are enrolled in a foreign language class. However, in countries across the world, as many as 100% of the student population in this same group take a foreign language. For the cost of materials and printing postage stamps online, studies have found that children and teens can enhance their foreign language skills when communicating with an international pen pal. When sending letters back and forth, both students can either practice a new language together, or they can try to understand one another’s languages. In addition to taking foreign language classes, writing a pen pal who natively speaks the language can provide an incredible educational boost.

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Increases cultural sensitivity and intelligence

As reported on, The Oakland University stated that “people who engage in a cross cultural pen pal relationship are more culturally intelligent and culturally sensitive.” With the current state of global affairs, it is becoming more important than ever before to teach youth about other cultures. Rather than keeping lessons confined to books, online content, and video, there is much more educational value in encouraging children to communicate with pen pals in multiple cultures. It is through these one-on-one interactions that they can learn firsthand about international customs and communities.

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Encourages the development of friendships

With the increased use of technology to communicate with peers, many of today’s students are lacking meaningful friendships and interactions. At Lawrence High School and Lawrence Middle School in New Jersey, school leaders developed a pen pal program between the schools. The aim of this initiative was to connect 8th grade students with high school students who would answer their questions about transitioning to the next level of schooling. An evaluation of the program showed positive results, especially when it came to calming the fears of younger students.

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Aside from the benefits noted above, research has shown that students can gain many other important skills from writing pen pals, such as improved literacy. Although there is nothing wrong with communicating through digital means, it is important to help students leverage the educational advantages that can be acquired through the written word.

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