Despite how close they are, Nik and these friends have never met -- they know each other only through the mail.
"It's hard to get him to just sit down and practice writing," says Nik's mom, Linda, of Martinez, CA. "But he loves getting mail and knows he won't get letters unless he writes them, too."
Having a faraway pen pal is not only a fun way to boost reading and writing skills, but also a window into other cultures, or at least other parts of the country.
To help your child find a pen pal, first check with his school. It may have a relationship with a school in another state. You could also ask an out-of-town friend to recommend someone she knows, or see if your church or Scouts group can make a connection. Amazing Kids ([TOUT_LINK "http://Amazing-kids.org/AKPen Pals.html" "Amazing-kids.org/AKPen Pals.html"]) is a great site that'll connect kids to real live pen-and-paper friends.
Older kids might want to connect with faraway friends over e-mail. Two good sites for e-mail pen pals: Kids' Space Connection ([TOUT_LINK "http://ks-connection.org" "ks-connection.org"]) and A Girl's World ([TOUT_LINK "http://agirlsworld.com" "agirlsworld.com"]).