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Handwriting – a lost art?

If your schooling was pre-1990, then the chances are you will have memories of being made to carefully learn ‘joined-up’ writing, perhaps with lined paper that had a special line for the smaller letters – ‘o’, ‘a’, ‘m’, etc. and a higher line for the letters that were taller, ‘h’, ‘d’, ‘b’ and ‘l’.

Today your child is more likely to spend time learning to touch-type, as their life will revolve around technology that requires typing skills. The sad thing is that using mechanical tools tends to restrict the creative, right-side of the brain. Most people are more creative with a pen or pencil in their hand, working on a piece of paper, than on a keyboard using the logical left-brain.

There used to be a certain kudos from having beautiful handwriting, but what gets handwritten these days? Even notes to the family tend to be sent as text messages, rather than left on a piece of paper attached to the fridge with a magnet. There are up-sides – now Doctors print off their prescriptions, so there is a much better chance of you getting the right medication now, as they were famous for illegible handwriting!

The impact of writing on English

Some teachers who work with children for whom English is a second language found that the children related better to grammar and structure of the language when they were encouraged to write. This can be extended to literacy generally.

Given that youngsters quickly learn ‘txt spk’, spelling suffers as they can remember the short forms, but not the correct spelling of words in full. When they are concentrating on the forming of words and sentences with a pen in their hand, both spelling and grammar improve.

The focus is different. On paper, the process of forming letters, words and sentences is slower and the child is likely to be much more focused on writing correct English. There’s also the challenge of having to start over if they write something incorrectly. On a keyboard, making corrections is much easier – and the focus is more on getting the words down than on the spelling, grammar and sentence structure.

There is a certain satisfaction in a carefully handwritten story on a nice piece of paper, perhaps with a border (or even decorated by the child who has written it). It’s almost a work of art, something to be displayed on the fridge or notice board at home with pride. A print out from a few typed words doesn’t come close.

Rekindle the writing habit

While it may be old-fashioned to handwrite thank-you notes, ask anyone who has received one if they got the same feeling from a quick text. Get into the habit of putting pen to paper – and set an example for your child.

Encourage your children to exercise their writing skills. Get them to make lists, write notes to their friends and family, write their own stories (they’ll be much more interesting than anything they’ve typed on a keyboard) and to take pride in their handwriting skills.