News ID: 204126
Published: 0729 GMT November 11, 2017

Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting?

Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting?

The US state of Illinois has passed a law requiring school students to learn joined-up handwriting, or ‘cursive’, overriding the governor's veto.

According to BBC, it is no longer a requirement in US schools, and some countries have dropped the skill from the curriculum or made it optional.

Why, then, do some — like the UK — still insist on it in a digital age? Shouldn't children learn to type effectively instead?

While victorious Illinois senators claimed the skill was essential, the reality is that many adults no longer write much by hand.

A 2012 survey of 2,000 adults by UK mailing firm Docmail found that on average, it had been 41 days since respondents wrote — and that two-thirds of us only write short notes like shopping lists.

The clear, blocky ‘print’ style that children are first taught is enough for that purpose. And for an increasing number of young children, that's where their training ends.

US states such as Indiana have dropped joined-up writing entirely; Finland phased out handwriting lessons; and Indian schools are reportedly abandoning it.

The usual argument is that the time investment could be used to teach modern skills such as typing or coding instead.

But is there a benefit to hours spent painstakingly copying the joined alphabet?

Teaching children to write by hand seems to have some advantages that typing on a keyboard does not.

A 2005 paper by researchers at Aix-Marseille University compared typing and writing in children aged three to five to see if there was a difference later in recognizing the letters. Their evidence suggested that writing by hand helped the older ones recall the letters better.

A study in 2012 went further, putting five-year-old children who had yet to learn to read and write through similar tests —writing, typing, or tracing letters. Then, they were shown images of the same letters and shapes while an MRI machine scanned their brains.

In the children who wrote — but not in those who typed — an area of the brain used in reading activated.

Researchers concluded that it's possible — but not proven — that the physical act of writing might help children learn to read.

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