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Whatever Happened to Cursive Writing? - Part 2

     Since my last article, I attended the annual conference of the National Institute of Learning Development (NILD).  I was startled and thrilled to hear that the organization’s president emphasized the importance of cursive writing and its affect upon reading comprehension.  She told of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that stressed the need for cursive writing since research has found that students who can write cursively tend to have better reading comprehension.  The ability to read in phrases is enhanced through the fluid motion inherent in cursive writing.  Further, the ability to read in phrases appears to help the student better comprehend the ideas contained in those phrases and their relationships to other ideas. 

     Also, since last month, I have been involved (quite inadvertently) in several conversations where shop owners have complained that their daughter or niece or son could not write legibly, due to the lack of emphasis on penmanship   These situations shared two common elements. 

     First, teachers are not taking the time to show how to correctly hold the pencil.  (The correct grip, by the way, should feature the pencil held between the thumb and pointer finger, with the pencil resting in the natural depression of the hand between the thumb and pointer.  With the pointer finger placed opposite the thumb on the pencil, the pointer is curved and looks like a hill with the pencil as the base of that hill.  The three other fingers should act like a support for the pencil.  The pencil should lie comfortably in the natural space between the thumb and pointer finger.)  Many children find this to be uncomfortable, so they make up their own grip.  Why should we be concerned about whether children correctly grip the pencil?  It has been found that the correct grip helps the student process information more quickly.

     Second, teachers are not instructing students about how to form cursive letters.  My youngest son is a high school senior who has been taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test for college.  Upon returning home from one test, he related that the teacher spent over forty-five minutes showing the students how to cursively write the sentence that they must write stating that the results of the test are their answers!  These students are high school seniors trying to enter college!  Not only could they not write the required sentence, but some could not even write their own signatures! 

     I don’t believe that we should accept the excuse that this generation will do everything on computer, hence, they do not need to write cursively.  Signatures are still needed on legal documents, signature cards, and checks.  When checks are processed electronically, our signatures are still required to be made with that plastic stylus at the store.

     We have not even begun to consider virtues that are strengthened through cursive writing:  patience, self-discipline and perseverance immediately come to mind. 

     Some schools still have cursive writing in the curriculum.  In some states, like Florida, competency in cursive writing is required by sixth grade.  The question is what is being taught and how it is being taught.  Carl Brown, principal of Manatee Elementary School in Viera, Florida was quoted in USA Today (“Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching?”, Megan Downs, January 6, 2009, http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-01-23-cursive-handwriting_N.htm): “With all the other subjects we must teach, we just don't have the time to spend a lot of effort on cursive."

     As parents, we can inquire as to the extent to which our children learn this skill in their schools and fill any gaps that will otherwise deprive our children of this vital skill.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Patricia Stevens

Reader Comments...
2010-12-02 16:24:38
"Love this article. This is very true and much needed today. Thanks for the insight. "
        - Heather

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