13 Reasons Why We Should Still Teach Handwriting to Our Children


Do We Still Need It?

Emerging research shows that handwriting increases brain activity, hones fine motor skills, and can predict a child's academic success in ways that keyboarding can't.

The LA Times June 15, 2011
  1. Typing means being in front of a screen.
  2. Research indicates a correlation between handwriting and brain development. Some experts argue that, when handwriting is taken away from the curriculum, the right side of the brain hand-eye coordination and creativity are impeded. (a)
  3. Writing by hand helps with learning letters and shapes and can improve idea composition and expression. Handwriting in print and cursive both aid in overall fine motor-skill development. (a1)
  4. In the essay section of SAT college-entrance exams, scorers unable to read a student's writing can assign that portion an "illegible" score of 0. (b)
  5. A recent study demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard. Conversely, studies also found that those who used keyboards were slower and produced essays of a much lower standard." (c,h)
  6. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adultlike" than in those who had simply looked at letters. (d)
  7. 4-year-olds who demonstrate strong handwriting skills are more likely to excel academically in elementary school.(e)
  8. Handwriting expresses identity.
  9. Studies show people retain information better when they write by hand rather than type it.
  10. Handwriting skills affect children's performance in every academic subject, including science and math. Teachers don't just grade for content they also grade on neatness, even in math.
  11. Students are going to sign their names on legal documents and also write checks.
  12. When one is able to write neatly it boosts their self-esteem. With the absence of a spelling and grammar check to pick up on mistakes as they go along, some students become scared to write. (f)
  13. Good handwriting skills increase speed and fluency in reading and writing. (g)

Interesting Facts:

  • What has Steve Jobs always cited as a formative experience? A course in calligraphy. Many of the most popular fonts for Mac and PC alike were created by designers with calligraphic training. (Handwriting Is a 21st-Century Skill. Edward Tenner, The Atlantic.)
  • While workers and their employers increasingly favor the use of laptops, mobile phones, tablets to manage overall workplace information, an overwhelming majority of business professionals still use handwritten notes. Three out of ten review such notes on a daily basis. Findings included: 87% make use of handwritten notes. 38% use handwritten notes to organize their priorities and to-do lists. 67 % felt that better note-taking would improve both their personal job performance and decision-making. 75 % saw value in the ability to computerize, index and share handwritten notes. (New Study: Handwritten Notes Essential to Knowledge Workers Gamut News. Livescribe).

  • Some doctors treating neurological disorders say handwriting can be an early diagnostic tool.

  • Americans aren’t the only ones concerned. Chinese and Japanese youths are suffering from "character amnesia," says AFP's Judith Evans. They can't remember how to create letters, thanks to computers and text messaging. In China, the problem is so prevalent, there's a word for it: "Tibiwangzi", or "take pen, forget character." "It's like you're forgetting your culture," says Zeng Ming, 22. So closely are Chinese writing and reading linked in the brain, says Hong Kong University linguist Siok Wai Ting, that China's reading ability as a nation could suffer.





Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Wire, AFP/Reuters
  1. Some experts argue that, when handwriting is taken away from the curriculum, we impede that part of development of the right side of the brain hand-eye coordination and creativity. Studies show people retain information better when they write than type it. There should be a balance to teaching handwriting and keyboarding skills. There are both crucially important to their development and success. (February 3rd, 2012) (a1) A recent Indiana University study had one group of children practice printing letters by hand while a second group just looked at examples of A's, B's, and C's. Then, both groups of kids entered a functional MRI (disguised as a "spaceship") that scanned their brains as the researchers showed them letters. The neural activity in the first group was far more advanced and "adult-like," researchers found.
  2. Handwriting also affects other people's perceptions of adults and children. Several studies have shown that the same mediocre essay will score much higher if written with good penmanship and much lower if written out in poor handwriting, says Vanderbilt University education professor Steve Graham.
  3. University of Wisconsin psychologist Virginia Berninger tested students in grades 2, 4, and 6, and found that they not only wrote faster by hand than by keyboard — but also generated more ideas when composing essays in longhand. In other research, Berninger shows that the sequential finger movements required to write by hand activate brain regions involved with thought, language, and short-term memory.
  4. Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letterlearning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters.( October 5, 2010 How Handwriting Trains the Brain By GWENDOLYN BOUNDS)
  5. In research funded by the Children’s Trust and soon to be published in the Journal of Early Childhood Education and Development, Dinehart discovered that 4-year-olds who demonstrate strong handwriting skills are more likely to excel academically in elementary school. Research on the importance of handwriting is just beginning to emerge, and Dinehart’s findings establish a new link in understanding how penmanship plays a role in a child’s academic development. (Jean-Paul Renaud MPA ’11 Florida Interntanional University)
  6. Eileen Perlman, a learning specialist and co-author of Preventing Academic Failure stated in the article, "When children are comfortable forming letters correctly, they are better equipped to process letters automatically during reading and writing, freeing them to focus on the meaning of the words. This skill affects children's performance in every academic subject, including science and math. Handwriting also helps with fine motor development. Ms. Perlman suggests that preschoolers should be encouraged to play with, "old-fashioned playthings: paper, pencils, crayons, paints, clay, blocks, craft supplies-things that don't run on batteries and let children use their fingers to manipulate something," she goes on to say, "I screen over 100 kindergartners a year, and in the past few years, I began seeing kids who couldn't master basic line development-drawing shapes, writing, cutting things. Video games teach only one kind of eye-hand coordination, not the more complex tasks that are done in school. What’s just as surprising, says Dinehart, is that the academic achievement by those with better penmanship is seen in both reading and math, and it’s reflected in both teachers’ grades and standardized test scores. Students who received good handwriting grades in pre-K had an overall “B” average in second grade. Their standardized tests scored above average in both math and reading. By contrast, pre-kindergarten students who did poorly on fine motor writing tasks had an overall “C” average and below-average test scores in second grade. She points out that there is research that shows that kids who physically write letters more easily recognize those letters, compared with kids who use keyboards. “Schools have started to drop handwriting from curriculum, and we don’t know that that is beneficial,” Dinehart said. “We might have jumped the gun on this.” “What we do know is that kids with greater experiences in early childhood do better later on, and writing can’t be discounted from that,” Dinehart said. (Connecting the dots between handwriting and high scores by Donna Krache, CNN)
  7. Cursive Handwriting Still Has a Role in Elementary Education. Eastern Iowa Schools / April 2011
  8. "Students are becoming scared of handwritten tasks as there is no spelling or grammar check tool to pick up their mistakes as they go along. ... the study also found that those who used keyboards were slower and produced essays of a much lower standard." Children Who Rely on Computers Could Develope Fear of Using Pen and Paper UgleePen Blog / May 19, 2011