Developing an attractive, legible cursive handwriting style certainly has great aesthetic value, but it also has numerous mental, physical, social, and practical benefits.
1. Improved neural connections. Cursive handwriting stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot. It improves the dynamic interplay of the left and right cerebral hemispheres, helps build neural pathways, and increases mental effectiveness. According to Virginia Berninger, a researcher and professor at the University of Washington, “Pictures of brain activity have illustrated that sequential finger movements used in handwriting activated massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory. Handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential finger strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding only involves touching a key.”
2. Improved ability to read cursive. When individuals cannot read cursive, they are cursively illiterate in their own language. The ability to read cursive is required in many settings.
3. Increased writing speed. The connectivity of a simple cursive style is faster to write than the stop and-start strokes of printing. Speed has been shown to increase attention span during writing. This increases continuity and fluidity in writing, which in turn encourages greater amounts of writing.
4. Improved fine motor skills. “Cursive handwriting naturally develops sensory skills. Through repetition the children begin to understand how much force needs to be applied to the pencil and paper, the positioning of the pencil to paper at the correct angle, and motor planning to form each letter in fluid motion from left to right. This physical and spatial awareness allows them to write, but more importantly, builds the neural foundation of sensory skills needed for a myriad of everyday tasks such as buttoning, fastening, tying shoes, picking up objects, copying words from blackboards, and most importantly, reading.” (Cutting Cursive, The Real Cost. Candace Meyer, CEO, Minds-in-Motion, Inc.)
5. Increased retention. The act of taking notes by hand instead of on a computer encourages a student to process the content and reframe it, which leads to better understanding and retention. Studies indicate that college students remembered information better one week later when they transcribed a paragraph in cursive than when they printed it or used a keyboard.
6. Ease of learning. Printing is more difficult than cursive due to the frequent stop-and-start motion when forming letters. In addition, some printed letters look similar and are easily reversed, like the b and d, which is often confusing to children. Cursive is of particular value to children with learning challenges such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and difficulties with attention.
7. Improved legibility and spelling ability. Cursive requires children to write from left to right so that the letters will join in proper sequence and with proper spacing, making their writing easier to read. It also aids with spelling through muscle memory, as the hand acquires memory of spelling patterns through fluid movements that are used repeatedly. This is the same phenomenon that occurs when pianists learn patterns of hand movements through continued repetition.
8. Increased self-discipline. Cursive handwriting is complex, and is inherently associated with the development of fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Learning cursive prompts children to also develop self-discipline, which is a useful skill in all areas of life.
9. Higher quality signature. Cursive handwriting will improve the attractiveness, legibility, and fluidity of one’s signature.
10. Increased self-respect. The ability to master the skill of writing clearly and fluidly improves the students’ confidence to communicate freely with the written word. Handwriting is a vital life skill.
by Iris Hatfield, author of New American Cursive