There is just something exceptional about grabbing a pen and a piece of paper and writing a personal note to someone. The sophisticated and elegant curl of letters seems to magically appear on the paper. The handwriting is usually specific to each individual and can offer a glimpse into someone’s personality.
I was taught cursive writing as a child and I always assumed it will be the same for my children. I assumed they’ll have the opportunity to learn and perfect the art of penmanship. So imagine my surprise and disappointment when my third grader’s teacher told me she will not be teaching cursive writing. They will instead learn how to use a keyboard.
Cursive Writing and Brain Development
I understand that the use of smartphones, computer keyboards and tablets presents some major challenges to cursive handwriting. However, in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article published in 2011 and titled “How Handwriting Trains the Brain,” Gwendolyn Bounds says the art of cursive writing “is key to learning, memory and ideas.” Bounds cites a research that find a correlation between cursive handwriting and how the brain compose thoughts and ideas. Indeed, handwriting requires the hand to form sequential finger movements to form a letter, which in turn activate parts of the brain involved in thinking, language and working memory.
The Correlation between Handwriting and Fine Motor Skills
Many researches also show that cursive writing helps students develop their fine motor skills. Indeed, in a New York Times’ article from 2011, Katie Zuzima cites a pediatrician who believes learning cursive writing is easier than learning printing. He adds that with fine motor skills, “it’s the dexterity, the fluidity, the right amount of pressure to put with pen and pencil on paper.”
Taking Matters in My Own Hands
So it is mind-boggling to know that more schools are opting not to teach this art and those that do only dedicate about an hour a week to the practice. Today, I find myself in a position where I have to teach my third grader cursive writing because of all the benefits mentioned above. I did some research and found some good teaching tools on the internet that I’m using for about 30 minutes a week. It’s not where I want it to be, but it’s a start.
I have also discovered applications for smartphones and tablets that allow you to hand-write using a finger or a stylus. My third grader thinks it’s fun and he likes seeing his handwriting on the small screen. This is just my way of coping with the fact that he is not being taught cursive writing.