Working out – such a dreaded phrase to hear as we hit late January and watch our resolutions wither and die – but we aren’t talking about hitting the gym, but rather, hitting the paper. Breaking out that dusty pencil sharpener, a trusty notebook, and a pencil is one of the many ways children can “work out” their brain. It has been proven time and time again that handwriting improves reading and language composition skills – so why aren’t our children doing it more often?
To explore the benefits of handwriting and how writing skills improve other necessary skills like reading, we spoke to Dr. Elizabeth Dewitt, handwriting and curriculum expert with Learning Without Tears. Dewitt explained that “handwriting is linked to basic reading and even spelling achievement,” and to read a child must first be able to form a letter and associate it with a sound – tasks that handwriting builds the foundation of.
Early writing skills are also linked to better print awareness, allowing children to understand that “words on a page can create meaning,” said Dewitt. When educators teach handwriting as a skill, not only does children’s writing improve, but their reading skills get better and continue to be stronger than those that weren’t taught writing, explained Dewitt.
“Writing by hand engages the brain in learning and activates the reading circuits of the brain,” Dewitt shared. Research shows that there are significant links between writing, print awareness, and reading skills. Learning to write letters and form words are the first steps to academic success, skills that keyboarding does not provide.
While keyboarding is a necessary task in the modern world, “handwriting provides skills and engagement that keyboarding does not,” said Dewitt. “Even though these skills work together in the classroom, they require two different forms of instruction” and offer very different outcomes. Keyboarding is not shown to improve reading skills or spelling success which are crucial to literacy success.
“Overall, it’s important that we are teaching writing by hand,” said Dewitt. “With all of the essential foundational skills for reading and writing provided through handwriting, it is vitally important that students are intentionally taught how to write by hand.”
So, the next time your child or student complains of boredom, grab a pencil and paper and set them to work.