A number of states are now requiring the teaching of cursive in schools, a revival encouraged by educators, researchers, parents and politicians. And it’s a good thing. While typing and digital files have been great in stemming a tide of paper waste, when used judiciously, writing things by hand has numerous benefits that we should not be in a rush to lose sight of. Consider the following:
1. It improves learning
A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found that taking notes in longhand, not laptop, improves comprehension, concluding that “laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”
2. It encourages brain development
A report in Psychology Today describes the importance to brain development of learning cursive, during the course of which “the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking.” Brain imaging shows how engaged the brain is while learning cursive:
To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. You have to pay attention and think about what and how you are doing it. You have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.
3. It makes for better composition
Research reveals that students who write essays with a pen write more than those that used a keyboard; they also wrote faster and in more complete sentences.
4. It helps those with dyslexia
Deborah Spear, an academic therapist based in Great Falls, tells the Washington Post that cursive writing is an integral part of her work with students who have dyslexia. “Because all letters in cursive start on a base line, and because the pen moves fluidly from left to right, cursive is easier to learn for dyslexic students who have trouble forming words correctly.”
5. It keeps older brains sharp
The Wall Street Journal reports on research that finds that by engaging fine motor-skills, memory, and more, writing by hand acts as a good cognitive exercise for aging brains.
6. It helps to-do lists get done
Of handwriting lists and achieving goals, researcher Dr. Jordan Peterson tells Forbes: “It appears possible that writing, which is a formalized form of thinking, helps people derive information from their experiences that help them guide their perceptions, actions, thoughts and emotions in the present… Clarifying purpose and meaning into the future helps improve positive emotion, which is associated with movement towards important goals….”
7. It can soothe the nerves
Dr. Marc Seifer, a graphologist and handwriting expert, says that writing a soothing sentence is a type of “graphotherapy.” Writing a sentence like “I will be more peaceful” at least 20 times per day can actually make on more peaceful, especially for those with attention problems. “This actually calms the person down and retrains the brain,” Seifer says.
And to all of this I might add, there is a certain intentionality that comes with forming letters on paper; one that is lost when tapping plastic buttons. And if nothing else, there are few things that compare to receiving a handwritten letter in the mail (that gets delivered by a human being to a physical mailbox).