Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L
With a shift to a heavily technological society, we are seeing a debate about whether or not cursive writing needs to be taught in our schools today. It is argued that cursive writing is a dying skill that is not used as much, and can be viewed as wasted time in the school curriculum. Therefore, due to the amount of communication through devices and the use of computers, we should be focusing more on keyboarding skills. However, we should not lose sight of the numerous things that handwriting, especially cursive writing, brings to the table in regards to educational and communication skills, and overall development.
Many individuals in the educational realm say that children today are struggling with fine motor skills, affecting their handwriting performance. From difficulty maintaining a proper pencil grasp to the lack of endurance to write for prolonged amounts of time, both printing and manuscript writing is affected. Occupational therapists attribute much of this to decreased typical childhood play. So many of our developmental building blocks are built during our early years through play. Climbing, running, crawling and overall coordination play helps build our cores and coordination skills, while manipulating toys of various shapes and sizes helps to develop our fine motor skills. It goes without saying that handwriting itself is much more than just a fine motor skill. And if these skills are not fully developed, we cannot produce proficient keyboarders. Therefore it is important to go back to the core development of motor skills.
With that said, there are many other reasons to still encourage the teaching of cursive writing in our schools today. The benefits of cursive writing include:
Strengthening Hand-Eye Coordination - The exercise of using your hands and eyes at the same time for cursive writing improves the use of these two systems. Yes, children develop these skills when learning to print, but to stop challenging them and move straight to keyboarding skills alone does not encourage higher-level writing skills.
Increasing Ease and Speed - Many children, especially those with dyslexia, may find it easier to write in cursive once learned. There is less chance of letter reversals, and the encouraged continuous loops in letter formation makes motor planning easier for some children. In addition, cursive writing flows and actually allows students to write faster, so they can put down more information at a time.
Improving Learning By Writing It Down - All children learn differently, but when we are required to write something down, we tend to learn it better. Therefore, whether it be writing from a lecture or copying from the board or a book, children are likely to retain information better.
Continuing a Part of History - Not only does writing in cursive add so many benefits to learning, motor planning and education, it also gives children the ability to read cursive writing, such as historical documents and personal handwritten letters. The argument can be made that many people do not use cursive, however oftentimes cards or letters are written in cursive, especially from loved ones, such as grandparents. As well, documents such the Constitution are written in cursive. If we do not teach children to write in cursive, they will not learn to fluently read it.
Like so many things from the past, we strive so hard to eliminate them with the "technology" argument. However, we are just starting to see some of the negative effects of these educational changes. Let's keep things simple. If we give children the right building blocks, they will pick up technology when the timing is right and with greater ease. The debate should really focus on building our children's bodies and minds to be successful, not just technical.