Children who write letters are more likely to be better at writing than those who do not take part in the traditional art form, according to research.

It also suggests that in an age of technology, penning a letter is not an old-fashioned method of communicating for some youngsters, with more than a quarter saying they do so at least once a month.

The study, published by the National Literacy Trust, questioned more than 32,000 eight to 18-year-olds about their writing habits, including asking whether they write letters.

It found that one in four (26.7%) say they write a letter once a month outside of the classroom, down slightly on last year, with girls more likely to do so than boys (30.2% compared with 23%).

Overall, those that pen letters on a regular basis are more likely to have writing skills above the level expected for their age group (23.9% compared with 13.5% of those that say they do not write letters).

They are also more likely to write daily outside of lessons and to think positively about the subject.

Nearly half (48.9%) of those who write letters think that writing is "cool" compared with 28.1% of those that do not.

But the study also found that youngsters are less likely to indulge in letter-writing as they get older, with a third (35.3%) of eight to 11-year-olds doing so, compared with 24.5% of 11 to 14-year-olds and 16.5% of 14 to 16-year-olds.

Trust director Jonathan Douglas said: "Taking the time to sit and write a letter by hand feels much more personal than typing an email, both for the writer and the recipient. Receiving a letter, particularly one expressing gratitude, sympathy or the latest news in familiar handwriting, makes the message seem more powerful and heartfelt than receiving an email saying exactly the same words."

He added: "It is very interesting that our research into the writing habits of children and young people found that twice as many children and young people who write letters at least once a month write above the level expected for their age compared with those who do not write letters.

"Young letter writers are also more likely to write every day outside school which improves their literacy, enabling them to do better in class and throughout their lives."

:: The survey questioned 32,026 children and young people in November and December last year.