The dying art of letter writing and the simple act of saying “thank you” are being revived in a national award scheme for children run by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.

The Thank You Letter Awards encourage primary and secondary pupils to put pen to paper and express gratitude to an inspirational group or individual. In the past, youngsters have chosen to write to Harry Potter author J K Rowling, football star Lionel Messi and actress Angelina Jolie as well as medics, relatives, the armed forces and a pet dog.

Last year, more than 200 schools across took part with pupils aged five to 16 contributing 41,000 letters. As the scheme gets underway for 2016-17, the Centre hopes to build on the success and sign up many more schools, generating more than 70,000 letters in a huge outpouring of national gratitude.

The schools can run their own competitions, which can be broken down into year groups or classes. The Jubilee Centre provides book vouchers to schools for taking part.

Schools submit their top five entries to the Jubilee Centre’s national awards and the winners will be invited to a special prize giving at the House of Lords in the summer.

Jubilee Centre Development Officer Vicci Hogan, who co-ordinates the awards, has read hundreds of children’s thank you letters and is always impressed by the dedication of the young scribes. Vicci says the scheme is about celebrating gratitude and developing the character of young people rather than an academic exercise in linguistic dexterity, so it is the substance and tone of the letters that matters.

Vicci says: “We have created age categories taking into consideration literacy levels so we don’t compare across huge age divides. We are interested in what the pupils are writing about and the way in which they express gratitude to others.

“The recipient of the letter might be someone they know well such as a family member or it could be a person in an official position, such as a teacher, a sports coach or a doctor. The range of people and organisations is really varied and we have had letters dedicated to strangers involved in acts of kindness.

“It is always a pleasure to read the letters and it is great to see school children expressing genuine sentiments of gratitude so thoughtfully.

“So what makes a good thank you letter? I think it is just being genuine and giving good examples of things people have done.”

Dr Tom Harrison, Director of Education at the Jubilee Centre, helps to judge the awards.

He says: “The proliferation of digital communication, such as email and text, as well as social media platforms like Snapchat and Facebook, means letter-writing has become something of a dying art. There will be young people at school who have never composed a handwritten letter, let alone a letter expressing thanks.

“Yet anyone who has ever received a thank you letter will know how powerful and enriching it can be. Saying ‘thank you’ to someone is a simple act but it can have such a profoundly positive effect on both the recipient and the person giving thanks.

“Gratitude is one of the key virtues. When a young person understands what it means to give thanks, it also encourages them to start to thinking about what they might do to give back – it is therefore associated with being an active citizen, someone who pro-actively seeks opportunities to help other people.”

Here are some examples of pupils’ thank you letters from 2016

 

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