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Source:  Wall Street Journal, “How Handwriting Trains the Brain” by Gwendolyn Bounds, October 5, 2010
“Don’t underestimate power of ‘thank you’”, Joyce Russell, Washington Post

“How Should We Teach Our Children to Write? Cursive First, Print Later!” by Samuel L. Blumenfeld.

Elaine Charal (www.elainehandwriting.com - (416)446-2903) is a Certified Handwriting Analyst; she has been a Professional Speaker for over 10 years.  Elaine markets “Callirobics” a Handwriting Exercise program that combines graphic forms and music to help children with their fine motor control skills and their handwriting. Elaine has been a guest on CBC's Steve & Chris Show, the “Mike Bullard Show”, “Breakfast Television” in Toronto and Edmonton, “Canada AM”, “Global News at Noon”, CHCH “News at Noon”, Connie Smith's "Always Good News", CTV “News at Noon” in Kitchener, Edmonton and Toronto, "Urban Rush" in Vancouver, CFRB's “Ted Woloshyn Show”, CFRB’s “Jerry Agar Show: and CBC's "Fresh Air".  

Some Additional Tidbits on the Importance of Cursive Writing:

1) The 3 pillars of a basic education reading, writing and arithmetic are best taught/learned before the age of 10.  The Traditional generation received a solid foundation in these three areas of education and went on to do many great things.

2) Reading and writing go hand in hand.  Writing reinforces creating the language neurology in our brains. Once it's established it is there for life.

3) The main purpose of handwriting is to produce legible writing so the writer and the person reading the writing are able to read what is written.

4) Printing was never intended to be a writing system, rather a preparatory process to facilitate learning how to write in cursive.  Cursive writing began its decline in the mid 1960's partly because teachers became frustrated trying to read messy cursive writing.  The thinking was that at least they would be able to read the printing because it was more legible. Today, many teachers won't accept anything produced by hand because the printing has gotten too messy.

5) Many countries have never taught printing.  Cursive is taught beginning in grade one and by the end of that year most children are able to write as well as children who first learned printing and in grade two or three learned cursive.  Many private schools including the Montessori schools teach cursive first beginning in grade one.

6) If you cannot write in cursive chances are quite high that you will also not be able to read something that is written in cursive.  That seems to be the case with most children who are under 15 years old today in Canada and the USA.

7) Quotes from Margaret Shepherd’s “Art of the Personal Letter”:  A personal letter, well composed and sincerely meant, will add a dimension to your life that only art can provide.  Like other arts, it connects the artist with the viewer, and it leaves the viewer changed in some way.  You can learn to use letters to strengthen your most treasured relationships.  You can’t re-read a phone call!

8) Kristin Purcell, associate director for research at Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, said teachers encourage their students to do at least some of their writing by hand because it helps them slow down their thinking, encouraging deeper and fuller thinking during the writing process.  From stimulating brain activity to improving memory, the far-reaching effects of cursive handwriting are exciting the interest of educators in the importance of this skill.   

9) Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld concludes in his paper, “How Should we Teach Our Children to Write? Cursive First, Print Later!” that it is far better to teach cursive first and print later.  He states, “There are few things that help enhance a child’s academic self-esteem more than the development of good handwriting.  It helps reading, it helps spelling, and because writing is made easy, accurate and esthetically pleasant, it helps thinking.  As Francis Bacon once said: “Reading maketh a full man … and writing an exact man.” 

He states throughout his paper“… ball-and-stick printing has produced a handwriting disaster. Why? Because by the time children are introduced to cursive in the third grade, their writing habits are so fixed that they resent having to learn an entirely new way of writing, the teachers do not have the time to supervise the development of good cursive script as they would have throughout grades one and two, and the students are usually unwilling to take the time and do the practice needed to develop a good cursive handwriting.”

“A question most often asked by parents when I assert that cursive should be taught first is: won’t learning cursive interfere with learning to read printed words? The answer is: not at all. All of us who learned cursive first had no problem learning to read print.  In fact, it helped us. How? Well, one of the biggest problems children have when learning to read primary-school print and write in ball-and-stick is that so many letters look alike – such as b’s and d’s; f’s and t’s; g’s, q’s, and p’s – that children become confused and make many unnecessary reading errors. In cursive, however, there is a big difference between a ‘b’ and a ‘d’ in cursive writing. In cursive, a ‘b’ starts like an ‘l’ while a ‘d’ begins like writing the letter ‘a’. In other words, in cursive, children do not confuse b’s and d’s because the movements of the hand make it impossible to confuse the two letters. And this knowledge acquired by the hand is transferred to the reading process. Thus, learning to write cursive helps learning to read print.”

“Another aid to reading is that cursive requires children to write from left to right so that the letters will join with one another in proper sequence. The blending of the sounds is made more apparent by the joining of the letters. In ball-and-stick, some children write the letters backwards, and often the spacing is so erratic that you can’t tell where one word ends and another begins. Cursive teaches spatial discipline.”

“Another important benefit of cursive is that it helps the child learn to spell correctly since the hand acquires knowledge of spelling patterns through hand movements that are used again, and again in spelling. This is the same phenomenon that occurs when pianists or typists learn patterns of hand movements through continued repetition.”  

“I am often asked: “Isn’t cursive harder to learn than print?” No. It’s just the opposite. It is difficult, if not unnatural, for children to draw straight lines and perfect circles, which is required in ball-and-stick, when they would much rather be doing curves and curls. In fact, all of cursive consists of only three movements: the undercurve, the overcurve and the up and down. That’s all there is to it.”            

10.  Cursive Writing Can Enhance Grades and Get You a Good Job

Steve Graham, professor of education at Vanderbilt University cites several studies indicating that good handwriting can take a generic classroom test score from the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile, which bad penmanship could tank it to the 16th.  “There is a reader effect that is insidious,” Dr. Graham says.  “People judge the quality of your ideas based on your handwriting.” 

Expressing gratitude through a handwritten thank you note can tip the scales in your favour when applying for that coveted job.  Joyce Russell of the Washington Post said, “Just the other day I was talking to a recruiter who told me that she received more than 3,000 applications for 200 teaching jobs and only one person took the time to send her a thank-you note for her assistance in the job search process.”  A handwritten note of thanks sent in the mail within 48 hours of the interview will stand out and be noticed and indicate you as a candidate have a good ability to follow through. 

Bic Pen recently did a survey that cited that 60% of Canadians said they would prefer a handwritten note of thanks or ‘Good Job Done’ by their employer than any other form of communication.                       

9.  Cursive Writing Using a Pen is Convenient

Using cursive writing, a student will be able to get their thoughts down on paper much more easily and quickly.  Even using the new Smart Pens, the heading must be handwritten before the notes are recorded.  For those who use tables or readers, the use of a stylus is evident so that notes can be handwritten.                       

8.  Cursive Writing Evens the Space between Letters and Words

Cursive writing has a flow to it, with each word being connected.   The clear space between words creates an evenness and flow that results in reading the writing being easier.  Too often a printed script has words cramped together so that it’s challenging to tell where one word ends and one begins.

7.  Cursive Writing Enhances the Health of Children

Studies have shown positive side effects of handwriting include reducing depression, blood pressure and boosting the immune system (Swedlow 1999).  Over 3,000 nerve endings in each fingertip directly connected to the brain are stimulated when writing.   

6.  Cursive Writing Helps Children with Learning Disabilities

Cursive writing results in less confusion for children who have learning disabilities because the smooth flow of cursive connected letters is easier for children to master.  In addition, there is less confusion between directions of letters such as ‘b’ and ‘d’ or ‘g’ and ‘p’.    

Learning disabilities expert Betty Sheffield has found that, “Handwriting allows access to kinesthetic memory, the earliest, strongest and most reliable memory channel.  Put simply, when children write what they have learned, they learn it better.”

5.  Cursive Writing Enhances Literacy Rates

Literacy rates are higher when students are required to master handwriting skills because they incorporate the visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities of each student in the process of learning to cursive write.  Therefore, with the increase of learning handwriting, literacy will also increase.

Requiring students to write in cursive throughout their elementary schooling will facilitate the creation of the neurological pathways for handwriting mentioned earlier, and will increase students’ speed and stamina:  Students will develop discipline and pride in doing their best.  Studies have shown that students who maintain handwriting are better at spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, grammar and composition.  Once their handwriting skills become automatic, children’s thoughts are more easily released.    

4.  Cursive Writing Enhances Reading and Spelling

Studies have indicated that after handwriting becomes an automatic skill, we shift focus to the information we’re learning or communicating.  Therefore, the more cursive writing practice we do, the faster we’ll be able to write.  Students who have more handwriting practice in their early years are better at reading and spelling.  Once cursive writing is mastered, children can move on to focus on the subject rather than have concern about how to form letters.  Another advantage:  Being able to write in cursive means you will also be able to read in cursive.   

3.  Cursive Handwriting Enhances Hand-Brain-Eye Coordination

As cursive writing skill develops, so too does the hand-brain-eye coordination that directly relates to many other tasks.  Researchers believe the brain paths created by developing the eye-hand co-ordination at an early age will lead to higher brain function later. 

The handwritten word requires more systematic thinking processes to organize thoughts effectively.  Therefore, writing and systematic communication go well together.  The muscles everyone uses to write are also used in other fine motor control activities such as doing puzzles or stringing beads.  Handwriting helps children learn to follow directions, an ability transferrable to professions such as dentists, doctors and woodworkers.

​2.  Cursive Writing Promotes Focus

To cursive write requires a good deal of practice, a need to persevere and the ability to focus and concentrate.  Practicing cursive until it becomes automatic necessitates a child’s ability to focus, and is therefore an excellent method to develop focus and enhances confidence.  Children who are able to focus perform better in any number of subjects and areas.  

10 Advantages of Learning Cursive Writing

Elaine Charal (416) 446-2903

1.  Learning Cursive Writing Makes Kids Smart

Information is more powerfully entered into a child’s brain and produce stronger neuro-pathways by handwriting than by pressing keys on a keyboard.

Handwriting actually trains a child’s brain; forming letters is the key to learning, memory and ideas.  Gwendolyn Bounds of the Wall Street Journal reports that using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression and aids fine motor-skill development. 

Research done during a study at Indiana University published in 2010 involved children being asked to man a ‘space-ship” that was actually an MRI machine.  A specialized scan called “functional’ MRI identified neural activity in the brain.  Children were shown letters before and after being given letter-learning instruction.  The neural activity was higher (in other words, more of the brain is involved) in children who had practiced the letters by hand using sequential finger movements than those who had looked at the letters or pushed the keys. 

“It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study. 

Handwriting also stabilizes the emotional brain due to the repetitive, rhythmic manipulation of thumb and forefinger over time.  Cursive writing involves the development of the prefrontal cortex part of a child’s brain.  Even if you learned to write in Grade 3 and don’t choose to use it any more, the neuro-pathways you used to develop the skill are still there, and can be easily re-activated. 

Linden Bateman, a 72-year-old state representative from Idaho says cursive conveys intelligence and grace, engages creativity and builds brain cells.  “Modern research indicates that more areas of the human brain are engaged when children use cursive handwriting than when they keyboard” he said.