Research on the Benefits of Handwriting–Including Cursive

An article in the New York Times, What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, makes the case that there is great value in handwriting, even in the age of desktop, laptop, and tablet computers and smart phones.

In one study, Dr. Karin James, at Indiana University, showed letters to young children, who then drew them on a blank piece of paper. Later they were shown the letters as their brain activity was monitored. There was significant activity in the the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex. The two other groups of children either traced the letter’s outline on a piece of paper, or typed the letter on a keyboard. Those two groups did not show the activity in those areas. These areas of the brain are important because they are activated in adults when they read and write.

The article also cites the work of Dr. Virginia Berninger at the University of Washington, showing that writing cursive has distinct attributes.

Takeaways from this article:

  1. Continue to teach handwriting.
  2. Teach both manuscript and cursive handwriting.
  3. Don’t start using computers for writing too soon – handwriting seems to be a foundation for the higher-level writing skills, such as idea generation.