Many of us write only out of necessity. From sticky note reminders at work to a thank you note to family, handwriting seems like a thing of the past thanks to cell phones and laptops. But what if you couldn’t write that grocery list or proposal? For many children, that may be the reality of their future. In our last article, we explored how handwriting education has fallen out of vogue and the impacts it is having on students and schools. For students to be successful, explicit handwriting instruction needs to be reimplemented.
There are countless benefits for a student to be an effective writer. A study by Richard Gentry and Steve Graham found that learning to write reinforces other necessary skills like letter-naming, word-deciphering, and literacy. By developing handwriting skills, children are able to expand their vocabulary and writing fluency which helps build the foundation for success.
“The act of writing by hand has been shown to have a tremendous impact on brain development especially in the areas of the brain responsible for literacy skills,” said Dr. Elizabeth DeWitt, a handwriting and curriculum expert with Learning Without Tears.
Students who aren’t good readers by the third or fourth grade can have issues that affect the rest of their life, explained DeWitt. According to a study by Kids Count, 66 percent of high school dropouts in 2014 were not proficient readers by fourth grade. “If we skip teaching handwriting – it has a critical link to literacy development in the brain, the likelihood that you would be a high school dropout is very serious.”
Learning to write opens other paths for children like reading. First, a child learns to write, learns to read, becomes an independent reader, and then uses reading to continue learning. If children don’t learn to write, they are likely to struggle with test taking and subject matter comprehension. “Even if you are the smartest kid in the room and you struggle with handwriting, it can have a negative impact on how well you can communicate your thoughts,” said DeWitt. “The primary tool of communication in the classroom is paper and pencil; and the process of knowing a letter, knowing how to write the letter, the sound it makes, and how to apply it is a very complex process. It is vitally important that children have consistent and explicit handwriting instruction to ensure students are successful readers and writers.”
Children who receive explicit handwriting instruction are likely to excel in the areas of reading and comprehension. When these skills aren’t taught, it can severely impact a child’s future. In our next article, we’ll explore why handwriting is an essential skill in college and beyond.