Should Kids Learn Cursive Writing in the Digital Age?

Speech & Fluency

In this age of smartphones, tablets and distance learning over Zoom it might seem natural to relinquish the tradition of cursive writing. There’s a good chance your own children haven’t learned the practice of cursive handwriting unless you, yourself, have taken the time to impart it.

As schools have done away with handwriting practice and moved more curriculum online and off-paper, have we done our kids a disservice?

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

Should you take the time to teach your child cursive handwriting?

Only you can decide whether it’s worth the effort but the science is quite clear: cursive writing is beneficial to all students. A 2019 analysis of resarch demonstrated that handwriting skill and practice is known to contribute to overall quality and fluency of writing, whether that writing was by hand or keyboard in future.

What is unique about the handwriting process, as compared to printing and keyboarding?

Cursive writing builds brain-body connection.

A 2020 study of young adults and children found that handwriting required a coordination of brain and body similar to drawing, and that both of these hand-eye processes activated areas of the brain not apparently activated by keyboarding. The researchers concluded:

We suggest that children, from an early age, must be exposed to handwriting and drawing activities in school to establish the neuronal oscillation patterns that are beneficial for learning. We conclude that because of the benefits of sensory-motor integration due to the larger involvement of the senses as well as fine and precisely controlled hand movements when writing by hand and when drawing, it is vital to maintain both activities in a learning environment to facilitate and optimize learning.”

Cursive writing is faster.

From a practical standpoint, handwriting is the fastest way to communicate in writing. Faster than printing. Faster than hunt-&-peck keyboarding. Maybe a close second to skilled typing, but still the quickest way to get words on paper.

In public school and high school, being able to jot things down quickly is a win. In a college or university lecture it can be a tool of survival when note-taking in the absence of a laptop.

Since handwriting builds brain connections to process and generate language, becoming proficient at handwriting can help with processing speed in general. Simply, writing makes one faster at writing. Not to mention that learning cursive writing enables a person to read cursive writing in manuscripts or handwritten notes.

Cursive writing supports spelling.

Multiple studies have shown the unique advantage of the handwriting “flow” from letter to letter in learning and retaining correct spelling. As explained by a 2019 study, children who wrote in cursive handwriting tended to outperform children using printing. This study’s authors explain: “Performance difference can be explained by the children’s ability to process the words in their entirety by accessing mental vocabulary, rather than identifying every single letter which forms the word itself (global versus local processing).”

In cursive writing, the word is produced in one effort with little to no interruption. As cursive writing improves, so does spelling and reading speed and accuracy.

In fact, students with dyslexia are specifically shown to benefit from learning to use cursive handwriting. The British Dyslexia Association suggests parents teach their children cursive writing because it can help them better distinguish easily confused letters such as “b,” “d,” “p” and “q.” Through the brain-body practice of handwriting, a physical memory of letter forms and word spellings is built.

Resources for Teaching Cursive Writing

So you want to teach your child to write in cursive? With schools turning away from cursive handwriting en masse, the ball is truly in your court if you wish your child to have this vital skill. 

Luckily, teaching cursive handwriting is simple and requires only time and practice. According to the research, the earlier and more consistently that cursive handwriting is introduced, the greater impact it can have on a child’s langauge skills over time.

Accessible education resources like these simple cursive handwriting worksheets can easily be printed at home and integrated into a daily “homework” time. Writing notes to each other or practising handwriting on your kitchen whiteboard are fun ways to integrate handwriting practice into daily life. While it requires patience, handwriting is a skill never forgotten and evidently very worth learning.