Friday, September 19, 2008


A fun and interesting program to do with your kids or teens is to involve them in a letterboxing program! This combines the thrill of a treasure hunt with a love of the great outdoors, and can be especially great for rural libraries. (But by no means restricted to them!)

But what is Letterboxing? To quote the North American Letterboxing Page:

“Letterboxing is an intriguing mix of treasure hunting, art, navigation, and
exploring interesting, scenic, and sometimes remote places. It takes the ancient custom of placing a rock on a cairn upon reaching the summit of a mountain to an artform. It started when a gentleman simply left his calling card in a bottle by a remote pool on the moors of Dartmoor, in England.

Here's the basic idea: Someone hides a waterproof box somewhere (in a beautiful, interesting, or remote location) containing at least a logbook and a carved rubber stamp, and perhaps other goodies. The hider then usually writes directions to the box (called "clues" or "the map"), which can be straightforward, cryptic, or any degree in between. Often the clues involve map coordinates or compass bearings from landmarks, but they don't have to. Selecting a location and writing the clues is one aspect of the art.

Once the clues are written, hunters in possession of the clues attempt to find the box. In addition to the clue and any maps or tools needed to solve it, the hunter should carry at least a pencil, his personal rubber stamp, an inkpad, and his personal logbook. When the hunter successfully deciphers the clue and finds the box, he stamps the logbook in the box with his personal stamp, and stamps his personal logbook with the box's stamp. The box's logbook keeps a record of all its visitors, and the hunters keep a record of all the boxes they have found, in their personal logbooks.”

It’s a very inexpensive hobby, and kids love feeling like pirates when they go looking for treasure, or are the ones to hide it. One way libraries can use this is by creating a letterboxing cache with the kids. Just a rubber stamp (despite some letterboxers preference for hand-made stamps you can use a store bought, or make the stamp with the kids as part of the program) a small blank unlined notebook or scroll of paper, and a waterproof container make a cache. The librarian would pick a hiding spot on the library grounds, or somewhere nearby to plant the cache, and then the kids backtrack from the letterbox spot to the “starter” spot (maybe the library front door or parking lot) and make up each clue as they go.

Then the librarian would post the letterboxes clues and general location (Say. Greenfield Ma if you’re doing it for that library) on a letterboxing website (or several of them) and letterboxers will come and look for the box. In a certain pre-decided time period (6 months, A year, whatever you think is long enough) the librarian will retrieve the letterbox, and put the log on display for the kids in the library to flip through and see all the people’s marks that found it.

This can be very very exciting for kids, and a really good way to make them think creatively about how to write instructions.

Some great letterboxing sites:

North American Letterboxing:

Atlas Quest:

I also have a new letterboxing blog about my own adventures if you’d like to check that out, it will give you some of the names and general locations of western mass Caches, as well as links on where to find the clues (No spoilers I promise)

Not all who Wander are Lost:

See Also: WMRLS READS! Blog

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