Is handwriting becoming a lost art? The new Common Core Standards adopted by most states in the U.S. make teaching cursive optional and up to individual states. The rise of technology in and out of the classroom means fewer kids are writing by hand in general. But many psychologists and education experts argue that handwriting — both in print and cursive — is still a highly valuable skill. Read on to learn some of the benefits of putting pen to paper!
Preparation for Early Literacy
A 2012 study led by a psychologist at Indiana University found that 5-year-olds stimulated key parts of their brain needed for reading when they were first learning to write. The children were shown a letter and asked to reproduce it either by tracing it on a page with a dotted outline, drawing/writing it on blank paper, or typing it on a computer. Scans of the children's brains showed that the act of drawing or writing on blank paper activated parts of the brain that adults use when reading and writing, while tracing or typing letters showed significantly weaker stimulation.
Increased Productivity and Creativity
Another study of students in grades 2-5, led by a psychologist at the University of Washington, found that printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard each use different pathways in the brain. Writing by hand allows children to produce more words more quickly, and express more ideas than typing. A related study showed that while working on a writing project, fifth-graders with good-quality handwriting activated more regions of their brain (including areas associated with cognition, language, and working memory) than their peers with poor handwriting (who only activated memory regions of the brain).
Improvements in Learning Difficulties
People with learning difficulties seem to benefit from knowing how to write by hand — particularly in cursive. A 2012 British report found that teaching children cursive may help with the treatment of dyslexia. It appears to help children learn the left-to-right movement of words across the page, and develop motor skills that prevent the reversal or inversion of letters (such as confusing "b" with "d"). Also, cursive can help with writing speed, legibility, and spelling words correctly (possibly because letters are connected on paper, and therefore in one's memory).
Enhancements in Auditory Learning
Studies by psychologists at Princeton and the University of California, Los Angeles, found that students who take notes by typing on a laptop rather than writing longhand don't perform as well on test questions. Researchers believe that students who take notes on a laptop tend to transcribe lectures verbatim, while students who hand-write notes process information and reframe it in their own words, reinforcing learning.
Connections to History
Think about it: kids will only be able to read the original versions of important historical documents — such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution — if they learn to read cursive writing. Plus, many old letters, documents, and recipes passed down through families are also written in cursive, so knowing how to read them can have significant personal value.
A One-of-a-Kind Way to Communicate
A handwritten note is more unique, personal, and thoughtful than a text message or an email. We all know how special it is when children hand-write letters to Santa and cards to loved ones, and when we receive a handwritten thank-you note in the mail. And there's nothing more original than one's own handwritten signature. Will future generations really be able to call it a "John Hancock" if it's not in cursive or written by hand?