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What Kids Lose When Handwriting Is Replaced with Typing

Lost Art of HandwritingRecently one of my friends learned that her 8-year-old daughter wouldn’t be learning cursive the following year in school. It was deemed “unnecessary.” Instead, they’d be focusing on typing.

While my friend agreed typing was important, she couldn’t believe that only a few years would be spent on handwriting in school, almost to be ignored after.

A recent NY Times article explores the topic of the lost art of handwriting, but not from either the angle of schools being lazy (not the case) or children not being ready (absolutely not the case). The need to become proficient at typing is a valid one, since so much of what we do today is on a computer. Typing quickly and accurately is an important skill to learn early. However, as typing takes over, is anything really missing? Isn’t information just that — no matter how it’s transmitted?

What we lose however, is the ability to retain important information as well as when it’s handwritten it down by us.

Research states that learning how to write by hand is a necessary motor exercise (Saperstein Associates 2012; James and Gauthier 2006; James 2012; Berninger 2012). As a kindergarten teacher, one of the most important parts of my year was teaching the children how to write. Although the program the school used was incredibly rigorous, it got the job done. Those kids left my class with some of the most beautiful handwriting I’d ever seen — and they were 6 years old. The correlation between writing and learning to read was obvious. As we practiced letters, we wrote them; same with sight words and blends.

Virginia Berninger is a University of Washington professor of educational psychology who studies both writing disabilities and normal writing development. She studied children’s ability to write the alphabet and sentences handwritten and typed. “Children consistently did better writing with a pen when they wrote essays. They wrote more, and they wrote faster,” says Berninger.

My kindergarteners went on to start cursive in second and third grade, with typing becoming part of the program. Yet only a part — handwriting was still the emphasis in note taking, studying, tests, and paperwork.

While cursive writing provides it’s own, unique benefits to our brains, handwriting in general is the best way to stimulate our brains into learning. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cites that “the practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.”

What can be done? If you’re homeschooling, or want to emphasize handwriting more at home, pick a program that helps with that like Handwriting Without Tears or Zaner-Bloser. Ask teachers in upcoming grades how much they require to be handwritten, and if any time will be spent on it. Encourage other parents to do the same. Then go the extra mile with your child — helping him or her to write out notes, letters, and stories. Buy journals and lined paper with easy to use pens and pencils. Make it something your child looks forward to, and they’ll be learning more quickly without even knowing.

Diana blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. You can also find her work on Liberating Working Moms, She Reads Truth, Still Standing MagazineThe New York Times, and The Huffington Post, with smaller glimpses into her day on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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