EAST LANSING, MI – Students at the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish School in East Lansing have been learning a lot about how to write letters. So when the school's postman suggested a National Letter Writing Day, the principal agreed to kick off the event and to urge other schools in Michigan and across the country to join them in celebrating the art of letter writing.
These days, writing letters is quickly becoming outdated, especially among young people, who prefer to text, email or communicate on social networking sites like Facebook. But something special happened this week at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish School in East Lansing. The students wrote letters for what some hope will become a new holiday, National Letter Writing Day. Most of the credit for National Letter Writing Day goes to Dave Randall, a postman who delivers mail in East Lansing.
"It just came to me one day when my Mom was showing me letters that my Dad wrote to her from the Korean War over 50 years ago," says Randall. "They're a keepsake. I don't see people doing that today. It's a lost art, and I wanted to bring it back."
Randall picked January 17th. It's the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who was the country's first Postmaster General. Randall then went to Rod Murphy, the principal at St. Thomas, and Murphy was happy to hold the first National Letter Writing Day at his school.
"There's something magical about pouring your energy into a project, writing it out in your own best handwriting, and sending it to someone," says Murphy. "We want these letters to touch the minds and hearts of those who receive them."
Olivia is in the fourth grade, where she's been learning the proper format for a letter.
"You write five main parts," says Olivia. "You write the signature, the body, the closing, the greeting and the heading."
Some students wrote to soldiers in Afghanistan, others wrote to their grandparents to thank them for Christmas presents. Olivia sent her letter to her cousins in Cincinnati.
"That I miss them, and I want to come see them," says Olivia. "I thanked them for the present they sent me, and I asked them if they liked the present I sent them."
Thomas is also a fourth grader and very enthusiastic about the project.
"Writing is awesome," says Thomas. "You get to tell people who are far away, like my Aunt Dorothy who I wrote to in Hawaii, what's going on. So it's a different way of talking to them if they're far away. I've never see her in my life."
Thomas says now he wants to write another letter to one of his favorite authors - Jonathan Rand, who wrote the series American Chillers and Michigan Chillers.
Gerie Ossman teaches second grade at St. Thomas. She says the students are learning printing and cursive. Even at this young age, they do a lot of writing.
"It's kind of an art form," says Ossman. "And they've done a tremendous job. So, I'm excited about this, because I love letters, and I think it's a real gift to someone. The children are starting to understand that, too, because they know that they're going to be sending a gift through the mail."
National Letter Writing Day is catching on. Other schools have expressed interest , and postman Dave Randall would love to see it expand.
"Oh, yes," says Randall. "I plan on going nationwide, in every elementary school in America, National Letter Writing Day."
Email and texting have drastically changed the way people communicate, but maybe letter writing could be the lost art that becomes new again through children who discover that a handwritten letter can make someone's day.