In today’s modern world, few people still write with pen and paper, let alone in cursive script. However, researchers believe that cursive writing is important to cognitive development and the brain’s sensorimotor region. There’s a substantial learning difference between handwriting cursive letters and typing or tracing those same letters. But with the abundance of smartphones, laptops, and tablets for reading and writing text, is writing cursive still important, or is it an outmoded learning tool?
Many school districts no longer teach cursive, with one professor at the University of Southern California stating, “It’s much more likely that keyboarding will help students succeed in careers and in school than it is that cursive will.” Few states still have cursive in their curricula. So what are the benefits of cursive handwriting skills when you can use a computer for the same task? Science says the cognitive and visual benefits to children learning cursive.
Cursive Handwriting and the Brain
Forming letters with the hand by using a pen or pencil is cognitively different than pushing a physical or virtual key on a keyboard. When learning, forming letters by hand creates a connection with the movement of the hand to the visual response of seeing the letter on the page. There are multiple processes coexisting simultaneously: the movement of the hand, the thought of the letter, and the visual cue of the letter. This is reading and writing concurrently, which is a necessary skill.
Children need to go through this process to fully understand the English language and connect words to motor memory. Learning cursive handwriting is important for spelling skills, enabling children to recognize words when they read them later. Typing doesn’t have the same effect on the brain, as it doesn’t require the same fine motor skills and simultaneous activity.
Cursive Makes Children Smarter
According to Dr. William Klemm, the “Memory Medic,” cursive can make children more intelligent. Practice writing by hand helps train the brain to integrate various forms of information at once, including visual and tactile inputs, while applying fine motor skills. Dr. Klemm suggests cursive can provide similar benefits to the brain as learning to play a musical instrument.
While everyone certainly needs to learn to type in today’s world, cursive handwriting has its benefits. It can be demanding to learn, but it teaches organization skills and assists children in composing their own thoughts and ideas. For those struggling with dyslexia, cursive can a part of a treatment plan to help hand-eye coordination, memory, vision-related difficulties, and other brain activities. Instead of letting handwriting die in schools, reading cursive and practice writing in cursive is an important part of a curriculum that improves children’s cognitive and visual skills.