Cursive writing is important for many reasons, and its loss in America’s classrooms should raise concerns. Cursive not only differs from print in the way it looks, it connects letters to words in a meaningful and productive way. It has been shown to assist children with reading difficulties like dyslexia.
All students benefit by learning how to write in cursive. Scientific American reported on a study that found that students who write notes in longhand (which could be cursive) during lectures remember much more than if they use their laptop. Cursive might be easier than print for some students, but either might be better used for memory.
With the advent of the unproven Common Core State Standards, cursive writing fell by the wayside. Common Core is supposed to lead students to mastery, competency-based, or personalized learning on the computer. There’s no research to indicate learning only by technology works. But those focused on technology don’t see any purpose to cursive writing. They believe if you teach a child keyboarding they’ll be set for life.
Those in favor of cursive claim it’s still important that children grow up and be able to sign checks, write thank you notes, or read historical documents. While that’s important, it misses the most important reasons why students should learn cursive writing. Also, since these reasons hardly make a convincing argument for students to spend time learning cursive, many states no longer require teachers to teach cursive handwriting.
Schools in Louisiana and Alabama, however, are bringing back cursive. Other schools should too, and here’s why.
For many children, learning cursive is a pleasurable experience. They are proud of their signature, and of being able to express their ideas in writing in diaries and journals. Cursive writing teaches a variety of skills.
- visual-motor coordination.
- visual synthesis.
- visual perception.
- visual memory.
- spatial relationship.
For the record, keyboarding is also an important skill. But cursive writing should not have to compete with keyboarding. Children can and should get instruction in both cursive writing and keyboarding.
For children who have extreme fine motor coordination difficulties, or dysgraphia, and cursive writing is too much of a chore, keyboarding can be helpful. Children with such difficulties are easy to spot and they should not be forced to do cursive.
However, cursive writing can be helpful to children struggling with reading and writing difficulties. Children with dyslexia might be able to remember words better if they can string letters together in cursive. In 2014, PBS News Hour had a special “How Cursive Can Help Students with Dyslexia Connect the Dots.”
I personally write cursive and could not learn well without it. Cursive writing helps me remember. There’s something about the kinesthetic, or tactile, movement on paper, reading what I’ve written, and also sometimes verbally discussing it with others, or I talk to myself, that seals it in my memory. I am also grateful for the semester of typing I took in high school. I am speedy and efficient at the keyboard because of it.
But I still rely on cursive writing for formulating my thoughts and ideas. It is worth repeating. It helps me when listening to lectures. I take notes, listen, read, rewrite, and later repeat the information to myself verbally. It got me through college with good grades.
If your child’s school doesn’t teach cursive, there are many worksheets available online. Stores like Target and Staples usually have cursive writing practice workbooks. To reuse them, place a clear transparency over the page and give children an erasable pen. Help children do cursive over the summer or when they have free time if it isn’t too taxing.
In the long run, cursive writing will be a worthy skill that will assist students in many ways, in their future education, or life in general.
Cindi May, “A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop.” Scientific American. June 3, 2014.
Jin Bo, Julia Barta, Hilary Ferencak, Sara Comstock, Vanessa Riley, and Joni Krueger. “Developmental Characteristics in Cursive and Printed Letter-Writing for School-Age Children.” Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 2014. 2, 1-8.