In these modern days of instant text messages and emails, many kids might think it’s strange to write a letter by hand using pen and paper. If you give it a try, though, you might just discover a whole new method of communication that has its own unique benefits!

For hundreds of years, letter writing has been a favorite pastime of many. In fact, much of what we know about certain people and historical events comes from detailed letters written long ago.

In the past, it could take a long time to write a letter by hand and then have it delivered by horse or ship or train. After regular postal service was established, delivery of letters became quicker and more reliable.

Many decades ago, teachers began to encourage their students to find “pen pals” around the country or even around the world. Through the regular exchange of handwritten letters, students could practice their writing skills while getting to know more about other people, countries and cultures.

Sometimes students would seek out pen pals who share similar interests or have the same hobbies. Others seek students from particular countries or cultures that they’re interested in. For example, foreign language students might seek out pen pals from France if they’re currently taking French classes.

If you move far away to a new school, you might also decide to stay in touch with friends at your old school by becoming pen pals with them. Pen pal relationships might last only a few weeks, but often they can last for years and years.

Sometimes pen pals in different countries decide to meet. There have been many pen pals who have taken vacations to foreign countries to finally meet a pen pal who they’ve been writing to for many years.

Having a pen pal has many benefits. Pen pals can become good friends. They can help you learn about different places and cultures. Writing regularly also helps you to practice your writing skills. If you have a pen pal from another country, you can even practice reading and writing a foreign language.

Today, pen pals are still popular, although the Internet has changed how many people communicate with their pen pals. Instead of writing letters by hand and mailing them, many pen pals communicate via email.

Instead of waiting for days or weeks for a response, you might only have to wait minutes — or even seconds — to hear back from your pen pal! Some people call pen pals who communicate via email key pals, since they use a keyboard instead of a pen!

In addition to quicker response times, communicating via email can also be cheaper, since you save the cost of postage. Many people still prefer to send handwritten letters to their pen pals, though.

Handwritten letters have a personal touch to them that can’t be duplicated via email. Just knowing that someone took the time to sit down and write a letter by hand makes many people feel special.

In addition, sending letters via mail also allows you to include small objects, such as newspaper articles, postcards and stickers. These little extras can make opening an envelope that much more fun!

It’s also nice to save handwritten letters and re-read them months or years down the road. Re-reading saved emails just doesn’t have the same feeling… if you can even find them in your email inbox any longer!

 

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    • Congrats on being the first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment today, Clubpenguin! We’re so glad you stopped by today’s Wonder and that you like the idea of having a pen pal! :-)

    • We hope you had a WONDERful day today, Rahul! Thank you so much for leaving us another awesome comment to let us know you visited this Wonder! :-)

    • AWESOME job, Rebecca! You’re a SUPER guesser! We can’t wait to see if you are right about tomorrow’s Wonder, too! :-)

    • That’s a really great question, Ethan! We think you could get some help translating your pen pal message by using one of the cool, free translation websites found on the internet (like Google Translate). It makes it easy to type in what you want to say in English (or your native language) and then translate it into another language! We bet a pen pal would really appreciate receiving a letter or card that was written in their native language…it would mean a lot to them! :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! I was right! You don’t need a pen to have a pen pal. A pen pal is someone that you write to back and forth but you’ve never met. You could write your letter in pen (you don’t need one though), pencil, marker, highlighter, or type it. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about outer space.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige ;)

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis and for leaving us such a WONDERful comment today, Paige! We like your explanation of what a pen pal is! :-)

  2. What a wonderful Wonderopolis! In the Amarillo Globe News today was a story about soldier, Army Pfc.Rico Link, who got to meet his pen pals at Canyon Intermediate School. Natalie Bright, author, had talked to Canyon Middle School about letter writing and gave the kids different ideas to write about and shared Phyliss Miranda’s letter from her uncle in WWII that was published in AGN Veterans Day. Thanks Wonder! What a journey!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your connection to this Wonder of the Day® about pen pals, Sharon! We appreciate your comment, and the story about Private Link getting to meet HIS own pen pals! AWESOME! :-)

  3. Last week I decided I would start writing a letter to one of my four grandchildren each week. My three-year-old granddaughter was so excited to receive her letter. Her second grade brother read it to her. I already wrote next week’s letter to my four-year-old grandson. I’m looking forward to a trail of letters from Texas to Seattle.

    • What a WONDERful idea, Grammy! We think your grandchildren are really lucky to have a grandparent like you who is starting such a great tradition with them! They will cherish those letters for years to come! :-)

  4. I’m glad to learn about pen pals! I never had one, but I always wanted one! That’s what’s so great about this website!

    • We think it’s SUPER that you like Wonderopolis, Omarrah! We really appreciate feedback from our Wonder Friends like you! :-)

  5. I think that having a pen pal would be really cool and interesting because you could ask them what they like to do and they might say something you’ve never heard of before!

    • That’s a really fun way to think about having a pen pal, Arianna! We agree with you…it would be interesting to learn about things you might not have heard of before! Thanks for leaving us this COOL comment! :-)

  6. My grandma had a pen pal from Japan when she was in high school. Her pen pal sent her paper cranes and Christmas cards and postcards with Mount Fuji on them. My grandma showed them too me recently, she had kept them all these years! It would be really cool to have a pen pal! I hope I get one in high school… :). Bye!

    • What a WONDERful personal connection to this Wonder about pen pals, Pygmy! We’re so glad you shared your grandma’s story with us…how NEAT! Thank for stopping by Wonderopolis today! :-)

  7. I love the pen pal article. I have a pen pal, we get to go meet them on Jan. 30. My pen pal is from Mexico. Her name is Dionela, she seems very nice. She loves to draw just like me. I am so excited to meet her.
    Thanks for the wonder, I love this one!!!!!!

    • THANKS so much for sharing your pen pal story with us, Megan! It sure does add something special to this Wonder of the Day®! You’ll have to comment again when you meet Dionela at the end of this month…we’d LOVE to hear what it was like to finally meet your awesome pen pal! :-)

    • Thanks for adding your thoughts to this Wonder, Katt and Christin! We think you guys are AWESOME for visiting different Wonders of the Day, learning new things, and leaving us comments! We hope you both have a WONDERful day! :-)

  8. My brother has pen pals. Their names are Jake and Danielle. They both live in Pennsylvania. They do not live in the same city. My brother’s name is Nick. Jake is in fifth grade and I think Danielle in in fifth or sixth. They are not brother and sister. Jake once, on his pen pal letter, put two or three pictures. My brother really loves having a pen pal. He really wants to meet them in person. He also wants to see what Danielle looks like.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your brother’s pen pal story with us, Natasha! We think is really cool that your brother has two pen pals who live in the same state but aren’t related! We hope Nick gets to meet Jake and Danielle some day! :-)

  9. Hey, wonderopolis crew! Did you know that my class had pen pals? We participated in the NFL’s one world diversity super huddle! We were picked out of about 1000 classes! And when we got to meet our pen pals. We went to the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis and there were 4 Colts players there! We learned how to write some Chinese, learned some African stories, did some Latin dance, and participated in a play about Ruby Bridges!!! It was SOOO FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • It sounds like a LOT of fun and a super special memory for you and your classmates, Abby! Thank you for sharing such an awesome personal connection to this Wonder of the Day® about pen pals. We think it is SO COOL that your class was chosen to participate in such a unique opportunity! :-)

    • We like you, too, Luke! We’re super glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today, and we’re proud to call you a Wonder Friend! :-)

  10. My teacher is making me look this up. It is so interesting. I have learned a lot about how great pen pals can be. :)

    • We think your teacher ROCKS for introducing you to Wonderopolis, Jacob, and we think YOU ROCK for sharing that you learned a lot by exploring this Wonder about pen pals! :-)

  11. I think that pen pals are very great to have. They are a fine cultural experience if they are out of country. I like it a lot.
    :D

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend, we’re so glad that this Wonder was right up your alley! Thanks for sharing your comment– keep up the great writing and WONDERing! :)

    • We’re so glad to know that you are always learning, Wonder Friend ACT! We Wonder if you have ever had a pen pal? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do you need a pen to have a pen pal?
  • Can you have a pen pal via email?
  • How can you find a pen pal?

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Try It Out

Want a pen pal of your own? What are you waiting for? It’s easy to find a pen pal and start sharing with and learning about a brand new friend!

Go online to AMillionThanks.org to learn how to write to the American women and men who are serving our country overseas. These brave soldiers love to receive letters from back home. It doesn’t take long to write a short letter to a soldier, and it means a lot to the person who receives it.

If you’re interested in writing to other students around the world by email, you can also check out Students of the World’s E-mail Penpals page. You can search by country to find pen pals in a part of the world you may be interested in or want to learn more about.

Have fun and remember: writing to a pen pal helps you to practice important writing skills in addition to being a lot of fun. Always be sure to check your letters for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure to share your letters with your parents, so that they can encourage and support you!

 

Still Wondering

Use ReadWriteThink’s Mail Time! An Integrated Postcard and Geography Study lesson to learn how to write and receive postcards from friends around the country or around the world!

 

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