Back before the explosion of easily accessible printed work and the era of Khan Academy versus chewed-up textbooks, learning cursive was an essential skill. But as technology has quickly made touch-typing a more useful skill, it isn’t uncommon for third graders to question the point of mastering those capital Gs and complicated Qs.
And schools are starting to agree. According to ABC News, forty-one states no longer include cursive writing as part of their elementary school curriculum. It’s pretty clear: in the modern world, cursive is seemingly – aside from that dreaded essay on the SAT – useless.
Yet the benefits of cursive writing surpass the trials of everyday life. Cursive can improve and reinforce the development of fine motor skills, reinforce learned knowledge, and help people with disabilities like dyslexia better differentiate letters.
The development of hand-eye coordination is vital to a child’s growth. Cursive writing engages a wide variety of areas in both cerebral hemispheres of the brain, the same areas of the brain used in other tasks like playing ball and learning a musical instrument. The necessary dialogue between the brain and the hand while a child is handwriting is exponentially greater than that of the activity while that same child is writing in print, or typing on a keyboard, a far less cognitively demanding task.
Cursive requires mastery of the basic print alphabet, and allows students to both reinforce their alphabetic knowledge, and better understand lettering on a conceptual level. Later in a child’s educational career, handwriting class notes in cursive can increase efficiency and understanding.
The benefits of handwriting notes are obvious and many. While typing class notes may be faster, handwriting notes encourages a student to condense and reinterpret the lesson, which requires him or her to better understand what the teacher or professor is saying rather than typing everything, word for word. Handwriting also requires more brain activity, and therefore more processing and better understanding of the material. Writing class notes in cursive – when mastered – is considerably quicker than writing notes in print. On timed essays, like the writing section essay on the SAT and ACT, writing quickly can be noticeably advantageous.
Cursive writing can benefits children with dyslexia in letter recognition and self confidence. Dyslexic benefit from cursive’s flowing nature. Since each word is formed without taking the pencil off the paper, it can be easier to focus on a whole word rather, and more difficult to lose track. In addition, common letter mishaps, like confusing “b” for “d”, are less problematic, as cursive letters are more distinct from one another.
Many dyslexic children struggle in elementary schools with curriculums that do not accommodate students with learning disabilities. While dyslexia does not affect a child’s intellectual ability, a dyslexic child can appear to struggle with school, while they are in fact quite capable of understanding material. Learning a writing system that is more understandable, visually, can give a dyslexic child a more realistic view of his or her capabilities, and boost self confidence.
While many see cursive as a skill of the past, learning cursive handwriting has many relevant benefits, and should not be abandoned just yet.