Why Cursive Writing is Still Important.

Monday, September 21, 2009 by Marion Wilm
Recently the media (including Time magazine and the Charlotte Observer) has published several articles about the fact that Cursive Handwriting is a dying art.  Schools are barely teaching cursive handwriting anymore since it is not included on end of grade tests.  While students may receive some instruction in Cursive writing in the 3rd grade, without practice it does not become an automatic and proficient skill for many children.   There is also no requirement to use cursive writing in many schools so students revert back to printing, which is easier for them.  There is also the argument that this generation of students will use the computer for much of their writing.  So, why is cursive writing still important?

As an occupational therapist in Charlotte, I am observing a generation of children who are not fully developing their fine motor skills.  This is true for typical children as well as children who are struggling in schools.  The small muscles in the hand develop as we use them for precision skills.  Handwriting is one of those precision skills.  We use different sets of muscles to hold the pen correctly with a tripod grasp than with a less refined grasp.  Cursive writing is usually taught later than printing because we need even more muscle control to guide the pen smoothly across the page as we connect the letters to form words.  The stop and start movements in printing do not encourage those muscles to develop endurance or "flow" as cursive writing teaches.  These same muscles are the ones that help children with manipulating clothing fasteners (Can they button and tie their shoes well?)  If we raise a generation of children that don't fully develop their dexterity then who will take over the jobs later that require fully developed fine motor skills (surgeons, scientists, computer technicians). 

Cursive also teaches spatial skills as we automatically leave spaces between words while writing in cursive.  This helps to develop visual skills in a way that video games cannot reinforce.  Also, if children never learn how to write in cursive, they may also struggle to read cursive writing.  So much of what is written in historical documents will be as a foreign language to them.  

In recent years, I have had great success as an occupational therapist in teaching cursive writing to children that are struggling to develop neat handwriting.  One group of students that has shown the greatest success is middle school age students with Down Syndrome.  These are children who typically struggled in their early years to learn to write due to poor fine motor coordination.  Once we start cursive writing lessons, their overall fine motor dexterity improves significantly.  They also improve their reading skills as they learn to see how letters form to connect words rather than writing individual letters that may not be connected at all by their visual systems.  Most importantly, their self-esteem improves as they are proud of their work that looks "grown-up" in comparison to many of their peers. 

Let's not handicap our students by not allowing them to fully develop their motor and visual coordination skills.  Let's not limit their future career choices because they don't have good fine motor coordination.  Cursive handwriting practice does so much more than take up precious time to learn in the schools, but actually enhances skills in many other areas. 


Comments for Why Cursive Writing is Still Important.

Friday, May 6, 2011 by Shana B:
Wow,it's really sad to see there are zero comment to this artical of truth! I was just going over it in my head myself as I was writing a manuscript(in cursive) just now and thinking about a coversation I shared with a friend about the fact that it's not being taught in schools anymore...and i had thoughts about it but it said "Hey, I'll google that"...found your artical and,well you summed it all up...cursive is much more than a fancy font, I've practiced my penmanship all my life since I've learnt it and I think thats where I learned to be graceful, careful and accurate with my hands...furthermore, there seems to be a great peace and serenity in practicing it that tapping away at a screen or keyboard or a video game controller could never give you...believe me, I've noticed it. It's got to be sort of the same as the art of painting oriental writing...beautiful but theres something good for the soul goin on there too. And yes about the new generation not being able to read historical documents..hmmm...I already know plenty of people who cannot read it, let alone write it. Seems like that has happened throughout the ages, great way to tuck things away from eye view and control people, thats why certain languages have been banned by so called authorities in some cultures,e.g. The Irish being tld they have to stop speaking their own language by the Brits--can't control something you can't understand,but you can control those who do not understand....
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 by Nicole Householder:
I just went to the dentist and she was telling me also she has seen a decline in good habits of toothbrushing because kids are no longer learning cursive. It is when they have mastered cursive that dentists see improvements in teeth because of the flow of circles! Interesting!!
Sunday, January 15, 2012 by Ginni:
I am so glad that there are people out there who realize that cursive is important for more than just beautiful handwriting. We have a generation of children who are learning only gross motor skills by playing video games and texting. Not only is cursive handwriting a dying art, but handwriting in general is getting dropped along the wayside along with grammar and punctuation. The school I work for teaches cursive in kindergarten. I have seen those children grow up, my daughter in included to have not only beautiful cursive but very neat print as well.
Thoughts flow much easier while writing in cursive as the thought process flows much as the ink on the paper. Maybe that's why most of the progress the world has made came during the 1800 and 1900's when writing was still a very important part of documenting discovery.
Printing has it's place, as does typing, but we shouldn't forget that this nation is founded on a beautifully handwritten document--the Constitution.
Thursday, March 8, 2012 by Ginni Pereira:
Thanks for your article. I am writing a research paper on the fact that I feel cursive should be the first form of handwriting taught in schools and in my search for credible sources came upon your blog. Thank you for writing it, and helping others see the connection between cursive and fine motor skills.
Thursday, June 21, 2012 by Mary Gail Leming:
I have just published a unique and creative book for beginning cursive writers. Search THE MAILBOX SURPRISE and my name under Children's Books and Amazon.Com. Let's keep cursive alive!
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 by Belle:
Cursive writing should still be taught in school. It's been a tradition to learn cursive in school. I started learning cursive in 2nd grade and I still use it now. It is very beneficial to learn and we can't always rely on computers to make everything easy for us.
Monday, May 6, 2013 by Arjun Mukhyala:
I really appreciate your article Mrs.Wilm. The info. in this article helped me with my homework. Thank god you made this article!!!!!
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 by vidhya:
I was researching on the importance of learning cursive writing and your article was a pleasure to read. Only that in India we learn to write in cursive much earlier..my four year old son has to write in cursive and that is a little tedious
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by shashank jain:
I am a fashion design student and was inspired by cursive to create a collection for our graduation project n ur article helped me find out that its not just a beautiful handwriting rather its impacting many significant areas of skills of an individual and thanx fr writing this article it has added further meaning to my concept

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