Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age
Do children in a keyboard world need to learn old-fashioned handwriting?
There is a tendency to dismiss handwriting as a nonessential skill, even though researchers have warned that learning to write may be the key to, well, learning to write.
And beyond the emotional connection adults may feel to the way we learned to write, there is a growing body of research on what the normally developing brain learns by forming letters on the page, in printed or manuscript format as well as in cursive.
In an article this year in The Journal of Learning Disabilities, researchers looked at how oral and written language related to attention and what are called “executive function” skills (like planning) in children in grades four through nine, both with and without learning disabilities.
Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington and the lead author on the study, told me that evidence from this and other studies suggests that “handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.”
Last year in an article in The Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Laura Dinehart, an associate professor of early childhood education at Florida International University, discussed several possible associations between good handwriting and academic achievement: Children with good handwriting may get better grades because their work is more pleasant for teachers to read; children who struggle with writing may find that too much of their attention is consumed by producing the letters, and the content suffers.
But can we actually stimulate children’s brains by helping them form letters with their hands? In a population of low-income children, Dr. Dinehart said, the ones who had good early fine-motor writing skills in prekindergarten did better later on in school. She called for more research on handwriting in the preschool years, and on ways to help young children develop the skills they need for “a complex task” that requires the coordination of cognitive, motor and neuromuscular processes.
“This myth that handwriting is just a motor skill is just plain wrong,” Dr. Berninger said. “We use motor parts of our brain, Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age - The New York Times: