The Case for Cursive

For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art, but it’s rapidly disappearing. Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English, which omits cursive from required curricula in schools today. Students who are not proficient in handwriting may be as high as 25 to 33 percent of the student population.

Some say the need to read cursive is no longer relevant in our increasingly digital society, that is not necessary for academic achievement. However, this movement has opponents. A 72-year-old state representative from Idaho, Linden Bateman, says script writing conveys intelligence and grace, spurs creativity and builds brain cells.

Restore Penmanship to Our Classrooms

Advocates cite recent brain science that indicates the fluid motion employed when writing script enhances hand-eye coordination and develops fine motor skills, in turn promoting reading, writing and cognition skills. Threaded letter strokes help guide students’ eyes left-to-right and definitely correlate reading with writing. Children who learn to read cursive words first make a very quick transition to reading print. Cursive is easier to learn for dyslexic students.

Consider this. Scholars of the future will lose the ability to interpret valuable cultural resources — historical documents, ancestors’ letters and journals — if they can’t read cursive. And if they can’t write it, how will they communicate using unwired settings like summer camp or the battlefield?

Choosing to teach cursive is not about aesthetics or preference, but about giving children the mental tools needed to read English. Research has shown that handwriting skills can increase brain activation, impact academic performance, provide a foundation for higher-order and critical thinking skills.

Because a child’s fine motor skills are not fully developed until age 10, handwriting instruction should continue beyond the early childhood years. Our teachers should devote at 15 minutes to handwriting instruction each day. Is that too much to ask?