Developing Distance Devotion

As we have discussed, learning and literacy are highly influenced by emotion. A quiet snuggle while reading a book on Grandmother’s lap can make any child want to read. But what is the solution when Grandmother lives 1000 miles away?

Here in the office we appreciate good technology. Cell phones with video chat are excellent for face-to-face visits. Texting is a vital source of communication. And purse-sized computers are a must-have. But to our surprise, nothing builds a long distance literacy connection between grandparent and grandchild like an old-fashioned fax machine. Here’s why …

The Family Fax Network: As you know, fax machines provide instant, tangible contact between a child and an extended family member. Unlike a computer, with a fax machine a child can easily transmit hand-written or hand-drawn communication, thereby providing opportunities for sharing language. This exchange of personal written expression between child and grandparent encourages neural connections about written language. Hence, as we read in How Young Children Learn and Reading With Children, the foundation to literacy is strengthened.

Inexpensive and full of value: If you can still find one, the best fax machine for children to use is the least expensive model. They use rolls of inexpensive thermal paper which do not require any replacement toner. With proper supervision, young children can quickly learn to fax a note, drawing, or their name. In turn, extended family members from all over the world can reply.

Below are a few tips to keep in mind as you make your family fax network an ongoing family reunion:

  • Most fax machines come with the capacity to store numbers. Use photos of relatives next to the corresponding, programmed, speed dial buttons.
  • Since the thermal fax paper is on a roll, short notes can be sent using half a piece of paper. This will conserve paper on the receiving machine.
  • Use black ink: blue ink and pencil do not transmit well.
  • Just as Grandmother puts her grandchild’s drawing on her refrigerator, have your child put Grandmother’s art work on your refrigerator.


A personal note from one of our associates: When my children were young, they faxed Grandma their report cards, favorite jokes, poetry, essays, 4-foot birthday signs, holiday greetings, etc. In turn, Grandma faxed back pictures, praise, and promises. When my children became adults, they faxed tangible visits that Grandma could read over and over while sitting in her living room chair. Then Grandma became ill and lost her language skills. To help her recover, we continued to fax her everything from cartoons to This Day in History. Soon her language re-emerged. Through the fax machine, she was re-connected to the outside world and with those who love her most. Now that Grandma is 89, we still fax her every morning, promptly at 8am. She faxes back later in the day, reporting on life in the home for partying octogenarians.

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