Like her fictional character Claudia Rose in the award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert who testifies in handwriting-related cases. She holds a Master of Science in psychology and is licensed to provide continuing education for marriage and family therapists. Besides her mystery series, she authored the internationally acclaimed The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, as well as the Handwriting Analyzer software.
Can you write your signature? Can you read the Declaration of Independence? More than likely, the answer to both those questions, if you are over 40, is “yes.” However, the same is not true of many of today’s students, who are victims of the removal of cursive writing training from the public school curriculum.
There are those who believe that writing in cursive is passé; that keyboarding is all children need to learn in the digital age; that there is no benefit to spending time on push-pulls, running ovals, and the other exercises that come with penmanship training. Those people are wrong, and research proves it.
Here are just a few of the reasons why learning to write, and especially to write in cursive (joined letters), rather than just printing, is extremely important for our children.
1. Research by Dr. Virginia Berninger at the University of Washington reveals that cursive handwriting stimulates the brain in ways that keyboarding does not. She states, “Pictures of brain activity have illustrated that sequential finger movements used in handwriting activated massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language and working memory.” The same was not true of printed writing or keyboarding.
2. Writing in cursive means that the student also learns to read cursive. Today, many high school students, and even some younger teachers, cannot read handwritten documents. That means they can’t read a birthday card from grandma or the Declaration of Independence, or other important source documents.
3. The complex interaction between hand-eye-brain that is required in handwriting helps the child to improve other fine motor skills, as well as language skills. In fact, children who learn cursive at an early age do better with reading, spelling, and remembering what they have read and heard.
4. Kids love learning to write. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and increases their self-confidence.
5. Cursive writing helps with self-discipline and self-control by developing left-brain learning. Left brain functions help to combat the effects of TV and video games that bombard so many children on a daily basis.
6. Handwriting doesn’t rely on electricity or batteries. In natural disasters where computers and cell phones may be unusable, or just run out of power, communication is stil possible with pen and paper.
7. Handwriting is very low cost, certainly far lower than electronic equipment and software that needs to be frequently upgraded. The price of a pad of paper and a pen or pencil is negligible in comparison.
8. Children who do not learn to write properly are uncomfortable writing and so do not express themselves as well. Thus, they tend to receive lower grades on tests.
9. Handwriting as a multi-sensory activity helps improve overall organizational skills according to researcher Jeanette Farmer.
10. The United States Supreme Court has likened handwriting to facial expression, tone of voice, and body language, all expressive gestures. By being in physical touch with the writing instrument on the page, the writer is literally in touch with and processes emotions in a way that keyboarding cannot.
These are just a few of the reasons why it is important for children to learn to write. As president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, a 48 year-old nonprofit organization (www.ahafhandwriting.org), I’d like to invite you to visit our special website, www.cursiveiscool.com, which has a list of 50 reasons why kids should learn how to write, and links to other helpful articles.
Finally, consider this: Which would you rather receive from someone you love—a typed email, or something that person handwrote? There’s something intensely personal about holding a handwritten note or card. It’s almost like touching that person, even long after they are gone. January 23 is National Handwriting Day. Celebrate by hand writing a letter to someone you love!