Keeping the Value of Cursive Writing Alive

Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

There is a growing conversation and debate about the teaching of handwriting in our schools, but more specifically the art of cursive writing. In an age where we see more and more technology being used, there is the question of why we still need to focus on these skills as part of our academic curriculum. Many classrooms are using tablets, and children are often using computer-based approaches, such as Google Classroom, to complete assignments and projects. So, it makes sense to ask why teachers should spend class time teaching children to write. However, we need to keep in mind that learning to write carries a lot of other benefits beyond just the task of producing letters and words. Benefits of writing include:

  • Development of Fine Motor Skills: We are finding more and more children demonstrate difficulty with maintaining the proper grasp on writing tools, aa well as having the right amount of endurance to write more than a few sentences at a time.
  • Enhancing Visual-Motor Skills: Motor skills are developed through movement, including moving our eyes and head onto different planes. As the hand and head move across the paper in a horizontal plane, it is different from the consistent vertical plane used on the computer. In addition, the use of copying skills enhances this development, such as copying things from the board.
  • Reading and Phonetic Skills: Overall reading and phonic skills are enhanced as letters are learned through the movement of handwriting. There is a brain connection to learning letters and words and to the kinetic movement and writing.

Schools do still teach letters and handwriting, highly emphasized in the early grades, but we are finding there is less focus on the proper stroke formation to the letters, as well as on sustained legibility. Since there are many benefits to the basic learning of letters and printing, we find the larger debate to be around whether or not cursive writing still needs to be addressed. Many argue that children are not often required to read anything written in cursive, plus, with digital signatures, they are not even required to provide a signature. Therefore, the argument is that children should just learn to write their signature for functional use. However, we are overlooking that cursive writing offers so many other benefits. With an increased push from some educators and therapists, we are noticing that a few states are passing laws to keep cursive writing skills in the curriculum. Hooray!

Some of the benefits associated with cursive writing include:

  • Enhanced Brain Development: By having improved communication between the left and right sides of the brains, neural synapse development improves, resulting in increased memory, language and thinking skills.
  • Improved Reading Skills: Having the ability to actually read cursive writing increases one’s literary skills through reading different types of text. In addition, the flow of the writing process can improve reading speed and fluency.
  • Increased Writing Speed: Kids tend to have increased writing speed when they are looping letters together versus forming individual strokes. This helps with fluency and legibility and decreases the problem of lack of endurance during writing tasks.
  • Increased Focus and Attention: Because learning cursive writing is more complex, it actually takes more sustained visual attention, practice and attention to detail, overall increasing a child’s ability to focus and attend to writing tasks.
  • Improved Motor Planning: For children who have difficulty with motor planning, oftentimes we have found that using cursive writing is easier due to its continuous flow. It doesn’t break up their strokes or attention.

So, as we are all getting caught up in the technological society, making the effort to keep some traditions alive has more value than just being able to read a card from grandma!

Memoria Press – “Top 10 Reasons to Learn Cursive” was referenced for this article