Letter to Editor: In defense of cursive

To the Editor:

Why has cursive writing been relegated to the trash heap of outdated, insignificant and inconsequential practices? Could we have tossed out a critical link to effective and productive learning for our children? Have we been duped into eliminating a practice whereby our children would be allowed to fully develop their brains? Can cursive writing be a key component to charting a thoughtful path forward?

By learning cursive through a consistent, repetitive practice, a child taps into a multi-sensory experience. This requires the integration of fine motor skills and dexterity through movement control. Along with visual and tactile abilities, cursive improves brain activity and thus improves thinking.

Writing by hand improves letter recognition, which has shown to be the primary predictor of reading ability by age five. The region of the brain responsible for reading ability is not stimulated during typing or visual practice.

“The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during hand writing, but not during typing.

Research has indicated a unique relationship between hand writing with the brain as it related to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington reported children were able to “write more words, faster and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.”

William R. Klemm, writing in Psychology Today, challenges state governments that have been driven by ill-informed ideologues and forced us in Maine, for example, to become increasingly obsessed with “testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge.”

Klemm continues, “The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument. Not everybody can afford music lessons, but everybody has access to pencil and paper. Not everybody can afford a computer for their kids — but maybe such kids are not as deprived as we would think.”

There are many benefits of cursive over printing and/or typing.

Writing cursive improves fine motor skills. It “builds the neural foundation of sensory skills needed for a myriad of everyday tasks such as buttoning, fastening, tying shoes, picking up objects, copying words from blackboards, and most importantly, reading,” according to the advocacy group Minds in Motion.

Cursive increases hand-eye coordination, as students glance back and forth between the example letter and where they are writing. It sharpens mental effectiveness: the right and left cerebral hemispheres are simulated through cursive in ways typing or printing does not. Practicing cursive has been shown to foster higher levels of spelling memory.

College students remembered information better when they transcribed in cursive than when they printed it or used a keyboard. Students with learning challenges such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADD, etc. have discovered great success when learning cursive.

“The ability to master the skill of writing clearly and fluidly improves the students’ confidence to communicate freely with the written word,” wrote Iris Hatfield. “Handwriting is a vital life skill.”

Children who have practiced cursive are better able to develop a unique, legible signature, and better able to decipher old or historic documents.

“Cursive handwriting dynamically engages widespread areas of both cerebral hemispheres,” Klemm goes on to state in a 2013 Psychology Today article, “because cursive letters are more distinct than printed letters, children may learn to read more easily, especially dyslexics.” He claims cursive builds self-confidence, self-discipline, attention to details and memory skills.

LD 387, “An Act To Require Cursive Handwriting Instruction in Grade 3 to Grade 5,” is scheduled for a hearing Thursday, Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. before the legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Rep. Heidi Sampson


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