Kids today can Skype, build a blog, and tag a friend. But how many of these modern communicators can still read and write cursive?
Fewer than ever before, studies show. Penmanship is going the way of a lost art, even in homeschools.
“Handwriting is 50 percent of literacy, but children are seeing less and less formal handwriting instruction,” said Toni Schulken, a child occupational therapist who is dedicated to increasing writing literacy.
Vanderbilt University research reveals that children spend just ten minutes a day practicing print and cursive. In many homeschools, parents are simply too buried in lesson plans to squeeze in penmanship. In an effort to keep up with core subjects, some teachers are asking themselves, “What lessons can I forgo?”
With so much pressure to preserve penmanship, is the struggle worth the results? Consider the pros and cons of teaching a child to read and write cursive:
Pros of Teaching Cursive to Children
- Students are more literate if they can read and write cursive, and it allows them to communicate with older generations, like family members.
- Students can sign their names, a standard requirement as an adult.
- Students will have a tool they can apply later in life that gives them more options.
- Students can gain a practical life skill that is becoming a lost art.
- Students will be able to take notes faster in college. Printing letters, which requires raising and lowering the pencil or pen point for each letter, slows you down, as opposed to cursive, where you only have to raise and lower the point at the beginning and end of each word.
Now, let’s look at reasons to skip penmanship.
Cons of Teaching Cursive to Children
- It can take time away from core or more “relevant” subjects.
- It can be time-consuming and frustrating for parents.
- If students don’t use the skill regularly, they could forget it.
- Penmanship is not as valued in education and society as it once was.
- Because cursive is faster to write, it can appear less legible than print and create confusion. Every year, up to $95 million in tax refunds aren’t delivered correctly because of unreadable tax forms.
Another quandary facing the fate of handwriting: If technology advances to the point that students use electronic or digital gadgets to write their names, do their school work, and communicate, will teachers eventually decide that preschoolers shouldn’t bother learning to write their ABC’s?
Teach Cursive in Four Steps
Schulken says penmanship is crucial to a child’s education, and offers four steps to help parents teach cursive.
Step 1 – Students cut and connect dots to exercise eye-hand coordination.
Step 2 – Students practice motor patterns needed for forming capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters.
Step 3 – Students master writing words on traditional primary paper.
Step 4 – Students work on consistent spacing, letter size, and margins.
“The idea is that each mastered skill builds on the next as children first tackle pre-writing tasks and eventually build sound writing habits,” Schulken explained.
“The gap leads to frustrated kids, stressed parents, and discouraged teachers who often don’t know how to help.”