The 23rd January was National Handwriting Day. Looking at our web site visitor numbers and quantity of social media posts there doesn’t seem to have been much support for the day. What a difference to World Book Day!
Was it because we don’t think we can make handwriting exciting and fun? Was it because children, and ourselves for that matter, don’t see the point in handwriting as most communication now involves touching a screen?
Did you know handwriting allows children to do so much more than just record information with paper and pen?
Gentry & Graham (2010) explain in their white paper how handwriting impacts on other important learning processes such as storage and retrieval of information to and from the memory, as well as reinforcing the link between letters and sounds (phonics). The learning of the letters of the alphabet is done through a visual system in the brain which aids letter recognition, the most reliable predictor of future reading success.
Neurological research (Karin James, 2012) has found that young children who learn their letters through visual practice, typing or hearing alone do not show the same benefits in pre-reading skills as those who have handwritten the single letter forms.
Therefore, developing handwriting skills is a key part of learning to read as it helps a child to understand that letters stand for sounds and that sounds are put together to make words. Learning to write letters is an important part of this understanding.
Research has found that those children without an automotive recall (instant, subconscious) of the letter shapes and their formation have their composition restricted (Gathercole, Pickering, Knight & Stegmann 2004, cited Medwell et al. 2007).
There are lots of ways of supporting handwriting, not all of them linked to pen and paper, and so everyday can be a handwriting day if you and the children believe it is important. You don’t have wait until next year!
Gentry.J.R, Graham.S, Fall 2010: Creating Better Readers and Writers: The Importance of Direct Systematic Spelling and Handwriting Instruction in Improving Academic Performance. White Paper-Sapertein Associates.
James T, January 2012, http://homepages.indiana.edu/web/page/normal/20986.html
Medwell. J, Wary. D: Handwriting: what do we know and what do we need to know, Literacy Vol. 41, No 1, April 2007.