Monday, January 25, 2010

Cursive Writing. Dying. Art.

Erika Roman Saint-Pierre is the author of Hoppa's Big Move, co-author of the book, Locked In, and Executive Director of Culturatti Kids, a youth-based literary arts organization benefiting public schools in need.

Cursive Writing.  Dying.  Art.
by Erika Roman Saint-Pierre

I am fortunate to do a fair amount of mentoring to young, aspiring authors.  I love everything about it, except for one inescapable thing:  The Dreaded Manuscript Submission.  While the submissions may be well researched, developed, and organized, the handwriting itself is often atrocious, almost impossible to read, and dare I say it, downright hard on the eyes.

I have heard from a number of students that they never learned cursive writing and that their teachers do not grade on penmanship. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I did some digging around and guess what I learned?  They were right!  I discovered that the art of cursive writing is being widely abandoned as schools quickly trade pen and paper for keyboards and spell check.

I know what you’re thinking.  So what?  Not everyone wants to be an author, editor, or journalist.  Why force children to learn a dying art?   Think about kids who are dependent on computers for basic math calculation.   If they were suddenly expected to count change on the spot, they would be lost and possibly humiliated.

Cursive writing is no different.  It is an essential developmental tool that helps young readers distinguish letters easier, learn to spell quicker, and strengthen fine motor skills.   It has even been linked to higher SAT scores.

Do we next stop teaching English literature because the speech in classic novels is outdated and difficult to grasp?  Do we skip spelling all together since texting is faster?  Do we completely forsake the beauty, personality, and style of cursive writing for faster means of communication?  Why can’t we have both?  Why can’t our kids learn keyboarding and give them the 10 minutes a day it takes to learn an artistic way to express thought and emotion.

It can be a daunting task to spring cursive writing on students after they have become used to printing block letters.  Children should be taught cursive writing right out of the gate when they are still excited and eager to learn about writing.  Yes, it requires concentration.  Yes, it requires determination.  Yes, it requires practice, but isn’t that the case with anything worth learning?

You may never know the opportunities that slipped through your fingers because of poor penmanship. No one is going to tell you point blank that you’re not getting the placement, job, or scholarship because your submission was ugly.

It is true;  teachers may no longer give grades for penmanship, colleges and employers may not reject you solely on your handwriting, but someone has to read your work.   If your handwriting is hard on their eyes, you could just be making it that much easier for them to choose the next candidate.  Our children should be given the opportunity to master the discipline of good cursive writing as a basic life skill whether they groan and complain about it or not.

Resources to help teach your child cursive writing at home.
How to Teach Handwriting
Teach Your Child How to Write Cursive
12 Rules for Good Handwriting

How do you feel about the demise of cursive writing instruction in schools?

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