Cursive handwriting is not something that can be acquired unintentionally. It is an important skill that must be taught directly, explicitly, progressively, and consistently. It is a powerful medium of expression that can give children a growing sense of confidence in conveying their thoughts.
Studies have shown that fluent and rapid handwriting contributes significantly to the quality of the text produced. In one study focused on writing conducted on 245 students in Grade 4, however, almost half of the students struggled to put their thoughts on paper. According to research, this can jeopardize students' future academic success. In fact, research in neuro-cognitive sciences underscores the value of handwriting in learning to read, especially in the early years.
Taking notes by hand helps to set up the neurocircuitry of the brain for interpreting, saving, and retrieving information. For young students, this is a demanding and complex task that requires combining and activating a bunch of cognitive, neuromotor, and visuospatial skills - all of which are linked to our working memory. Unfortunately, cursive has gradually been viewed as an outdated skill. With the advent of keyboards and digital tools, and the shift to "whole language" approach, teaching it has been marginalized in the current school curricula.
Researchers have found that students write faster and better by hand compared to when they use a keyboard. However, in one US study, few teachers felt prepared enough to teach handwriting. According to Dr. Hetty Roessingh, a professor in the Werklund School of Education, many of the Grade 2 teachers in her own research were not even aware of the significance of teaching handwriting for student academic development.
A large number of early childhood educators lack the knowledge to teach early literacy properly. Cursive handwriting has been misunderstood and neglected in recent decades, and it is very important to reverse this trend for the benefit of our children. This is why teacher preparation programs at universities and colleges must place more emphasis on this fundamental matter without delay.
Picture: Boy writing, by Albert Anker (Wikimedia Commons)