Next week is National Stationery Week - seven whole days to celebrate the best things in your pencil case and on your notepad, as well as championing the fact that handwriting is vitally important throughout the world with the campaign theme 'Writing matters.'
As a teacher, I definitely agree with that sentiment and unfortunately, it seems that writing matters less and less in the modern world. Some of the 11-15 year old pupils I teach have such atrocious handwriting that it takes me ages to try to decipher their work and, in the end, if I really can't manage, I have to mark it wrong, meaning that they lose points when they possibly had the right answer. On a recent work trip to Norway, we visited several primary schools (their school system is a bit different and they stay in the same school from age 6-12) and they are having a big push on equipping all the kids in a class with an ipad or chrome book. They use it throughout their entire school life and at the end, it's theirs to keep. We saw them creating some great graphic content, watching educational videos and taking part in group quizzes, which was all really motivating, but the teachers mentioned that the downside is that they have great problems writing neatly and getting hands on with things like scissors, compasses and rulers. While technology is undoubtedly a great tool for teachers, the powers that be have to understand that being able to write properly still has to take top priority !
If you want to encourage your children - or yourselves ! - to take part in National Stationery Week, the Seven Days of Stationery is a great place to start. These daily themes form the spine of National Stationery Week and are designed to give people something to celebrate and support each day.
Monday is Pen and Pencil Day
Go through your pencil case and pen pot and throw away all those half chewed pencils and leaky pens and treat yourself to some brand new ones. Go for glittery and fluffy or sleek and minimalist - whatever you fancy. When we came back from Norway, we brought back a pen for the school secretary with a boxing reindeer on the top that flashes every time you write - we didn't think she'd really use it but she loves it ! Make sure you get one that you feel comfortable using too - there are even pens specifically designed for left-handed people these days and Write Size pencils that come in various sizes so that they are adapted to your child's hand, whatever their age. For once, size does matter !
Tuesday is Get Crafty
Once of my favourite activities when I was a child was collecting up souvenirs - birthday cards, ticket stubs, pressed flowers, sweet wrappers from foreign holidays, ... and sticking them all in a scrapbook, along with little texts to remind me of what was so special about them. When the Madhouse kids were babies, I got into the modern version of scrapbooking, decorating photo albums with ribbons, stickers, shaped hole punchers and embossers, metallic pens, ...I still have a whole box of pretty papers, pens and embellishments that I'm sure the kids would love to help me use in various little projects, from making bookmarks and picture frames to greetings cards and secret journals. Maybe stressbusting colouring is your thing, in which case you could treat yourself to some posh new pencils and a new colouring book.
Wednesday is World Stationery Day
You can interpret this in many ways - you could buy some new supplies that evoke a foreign country, such as these cactus-themed page markers or a new pen featuring the Eiffel Tower. You could raid the stationery cupboard at work and try to recreate an iconic landmark like the Chrysler Building or the London Eye out of paperclips and rubber bands ! With a little help from an online translator, you could use your funkiest coloured pens and your best handwriting to create cute messages on Post It notes in different languages and place them around the office and your house.
Thursday is Thank You Thursday
Do you remember sitting down after Christmas and writing thank you notes to all your relatives for the gifts they sent you when you were a child ? Do you make your kids do it these days or do they just make vaguely appreciative noises on the phone? Writing thank you notes has become pretty much a lost art and it's a real shame, especially as it creates lasting reminders that relatives can look back on. Receiving gifts isn't the only thing to be grateful for though - if you buy some pretty little credit-card sized note pads or post-its, you can get creative with sparkly pens and stickers and create some little messages for your kids and spouse, telling them all the things you appreciate about them, to slip in their lunchbox or under their pillow at unexpected moments.
Friday is Fountain Pen Friday
I distinctly remember my last year of primary school, when those who had successfully mastered writing neatly with a pencil were allowed to progress on to an italic fountain pen. We were allowed to go along to the secretary's office proudly gripping our pennies (I think it was only about 5p !) to buy replacement cartridges, and the whole process of writing, blotting with a piece of pink blotting paper, holding the nib at the correct 45° angle to get the thick and thin lines, using a corrector pen to make ink splashes and mistakes disappear like invisible ink, made us all feel special and grown up. Writing with a fountain pen totally changes your writing, as you have to slow down and concentrate on forming each letter and waiting for the ink to dry before you turn the page.
Saturday is Signature Saturday
I remember when I was tween and a teen, hanging out with my best mate in our bedrooms, we'd spend ages practising our signatures for when we were married, to the school heart throbs or the popstars and actors that we were in love with at the time. I seem to remember that I was practising being Mrs Kershaw (wife of Nik), Mrs Johnson (wife of Don, because I loved Miami Vice) and Mrs Willis (wife of Bruce, with hair, circa Moonlighting !). This is a great activity to get your kids involved in, because they'll be having so much fun, they won't even realise they're practising their writing skills !
Sunday is Write A Letter Day
When I launched a penpals project a few years ago, I asked if the pupils in my classes had a penpal in a foreign country. Many of them put up their hands and said that they spoke with people on Facebook or in video games who lived abroad, but none of them had ever put pen to paper. Once I'd actually managed to convince them that three lines might be OK for an email but not a letter and got some decently sized letters to send off, they were really enthusiastic, especially when they started receiving things - letters but also little gifts like sweets, postcards and stickers - through the post. Maybe you live far from your family and keep in touch by email and phone - put in a bit of extra effort and write a letter instead. I always find that I go into much greater detail about how I am feeling, rather than just what we have done, in a letter, and I always hang up the phone or hit "send" and think, oh, I know what I forgot to tell them ... if you're writing a letter, you can just add a PS ! How about getting the kids to write a fan letter to their favourite celeb ? - who knows? They might even be lucky enough to get a reply !
If you're looking for more ideas of ways to get the kids involved, head over to the Parents' section of the National Stationery Week website. Keep an eye open on twitter and facebook throughout the week too, as there will be lots of promotions and giveaways from all the brands sponsoring the event.
Disclosure : We received a lovely selection of stationery to help celebrate during the week.