Yes. We will be doing a disservice to our brains and the functioning and growth of our children’s intellect if we forget about penmanship and push for keyboarding. As schools develop future curriculum plans, statistics show that many states are reducing their requirements for handwriting courses, especially cursive writing. In fact, a new push referred to as the Common Core standards is close to being implemented in at least 44 states. This plan does not require schools to teach cursive writing, and handwriting does not get mentioned in the curriculum goals either. Keyboarding, on the other hand, is considered to be an important skill.
How can penmanship improve my child’s brain?
Studies clearly show a relationship between the action of physically forming letters and the cognitive development of deeper thoughts. Not only are fine motor skills increased, but the abilities to form higher level ideas are improved when handwriting is involved. Through the use of MRI studies, researchers have shown that when children experience physically writing out letters there is increased neural activity.
Professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, Virginia Berninger, reports that there is a relationship between the brain and the hand that is unique to handwriting. Where handwriting utilizes the skills of forming letters stroke by stroke, keyboarding involves single touch letter formation when the keypad is touched once for each symbol. Not only does the brain require more complex activity for forming the letters, but practicing penmanship also gets the portions of our brain active that are involved with thinking, language, working memory, and our overall ability to manage information.
Berninger supports this research with a study of children at various grade levels who were able to write more words, write them faster, and more clearly express their ideas when writing by hand as compared to using a keyboard. While keyboarding is increasingly a necessary skill in the classroom, the focus on technology might leave children without these valuable tools for clear communication.
Not only does penmanship show to improve cognitive abilities, but it still truly reflects on a person’s commitment and abilities. Dr. Steve Graham, a professor of education at Vanderbilt University, cites studies that show a significant reader effect. Whether we like it or not, people judge the content and validity of ideas based on the penmanship. The quality of one report can be perceived to be immensely higher with neat penmanship, yet lower when letters are written poorly.
As schools reduce in-class time devoted to penmanship and provide iPads for students, we risk removing a skill from their academic tool belts. While I admit that I find it much faster to complete my work via the keyboard, I can’t imagine a world where the written word is, well, no longer written, but instead pounded out, copied, pasted, deleted and spell-checked. Besides, what work would all of the handwriting analysts do instead? Keep your kids writing and you will keep them thinking.
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