The painstakingly and intensive study of cursive helps increase brain activation, develops a foundation for higher-order thinking skills and increases performance across all academic subjects.
One of my most prominent memories of second grade is the hours spent writing and perfecting a looping “G” and the unique direction of an uppercase “Q.” Cursive practice was a major component of our English class, with each student concentrating on the connected letters and doodling their full names. I remember how meticulous I was to stay within the lines and the satisfaction I felt after writing a sentence correctly. Little did I know that throughout this intensive exercise, I was strengthening my mind and critical thinking skills.
After second grade, I began to take true pleasure in reading and would lose myself in the plot, characters and descriptions. Trips to the local library were a highlight of my week and I finally felt more confident in my reading and comprehension. Although my reliance on cursive began to dwindle, I still remember the movement of my pencil and the required attention-to-detail. Today, I am an avid reader, writer and English teacher for EFL children. Almost daily, I see my students struggle forming the correct letters and confusing a “b” for a “d.”
This leads me to wonder: Why has the beautiful art form of cursive slowly disappeared and how can it make its well-deserved comeback?
In 2011, 45 states in the United States adopted the Common Core State Standards which removes required cursive instruction. The main reason for discluding cursive is that it is believed to be archaic and unnecessary in today’s digital world. The emergence of tablets, computers and smartphones have replaced the need for pen to paper communication. As early as 2007, only 15% of students chose to write their SAT essays in cursive. Further, the skill of deciphering handwritten manuscripts is not essential for the average student and this can be left to professionally trained paleographers. Cursive is considered a “nice touch” to handwritten notes but its importance has been slowly forgotten.
In addition to the US, other countries are following this trend. As of 2016 in Finland, handwriting classes were replaced with typing instruction. According to Minna Harmanen from the Finnish National Board of Education, “fluent typing skills are an important national competence. The switch will be a major cultural change but typing is more relevant to everyday life.” Teachers have also complained about the amount of time cursive instruction requires and how these lessons can be redirected to something more relevant, like technology.
A shocking 25-33% of students are not proficient in handwriting. This may be due to the reliance on technology or the lack of emphasis on handwriting instruction in schools. According to psychologists and neuroscientists, handwriting positively affects brain development, comprehension, memory and motor skills. The painstakingly and intensive study of cursive helps increase brain activation, develops a foundation for higher-order thinking skills and increases performance across all academic subjects.
The threaded letter stroke movements of cursive are easier and more natural for children to form. Cursive writing is directly correlated to reading skills because students become accustomed to their eye moving left-to-right when forming letters. Children who can efficiently read cursive words will make a shorter transition to correctly reading print.
The act of putting a pencil to paper allows linguistic and kinesthetic students to better absorb information. Cursive writing has also been proven to aid children who are dyslexic or have a learning disability. As stated in a 2012 report by Diane Montgomery, “cursive may be particularly helpful for those with developmental dysgraphia — motor-control difficulties in forming letters — and it may help prevent the reversal and inversion of letters.” The fluid movement of cursive allows students to write faster and neater, positively impacting students with disabilities.
A Slow & Necessary Comeback
As of the year 2016, 14 states and counting have passed laws that require cursive instruction. Louisiana mandated that students must practice cursive every year from the 3rd through 12th grade. Following this trend, other southern states like Arkansas, Virginia, California, Florida, North Carolina and Alabama passed similar laws. In the east, New York City public schools encourage teaching cursive to third graders. In April 2019, Texas educators began pushing to bring back cursive writing in primary schools.
In 2018, a bill requiring Indiana schools to teach cursive writing to students was proposed in Indiana. According to State Senator Jean Leising, “cursive writing was not made a Common Core standard in the past, so many schools stopped teaching the skill. Now, we are starting to see the effects. For example, some teenagers are unable to sign their names to validate their driver’s license or sign agreements. It’s a simple, yet necessary skill we still use in society today, and it needs to be a part of our children’s educational foundation.”
Although learning cursive can be a time-consuming task, it is a skill that contains more benefits than drawbacks. As technology continues to evolve, our reliance (and that of future generations) will grow stronger.
Let’s continue to advocate for a future with cursive so each child is given the best chance to succeed.
Jackie teaches EFL to students between the ages of 5-15 and loves to incorporate games in her classroom. She is an avid reader, writer and always on the hunt for the best-iced coffee.
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