Writing by hand helps with children’s literacy and academic development

Vassilis, flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0
Vassilis, flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0

With so much of the world now communicating by use of keyboarding, whether on computers or mobile devices, many schools have stopped teaching handwriting to children. However, this may be a disservice to children in that numerous studies show that handwriting helps support children’s literacy and academic development, as well as brain development, according to the article “5 Brain-Based Reasons to Teach Handwriting in School” in Psychology Today.

The author argues it is especially important to teach handwriting starting in preschool. In brief, it enhances preschoolers’ ability to learn their letters, helps set up the neural systems that underlie the skills related to reading, and leads to better reading proficiency.

Hand printing letters uses several distinct neural networks in the brain and enhances connectivity between them. These networks are associated with reading and so writing actually helps with reading skills.

Writing by hand also makes children better at both spelling and composition – and children who become proficient at these tasks are more likely to experience long-term reading and academic success. Some studies even show that in upper elementary and middle school, learning to write in cursive improved spelling and composition skills.

In preschoolers, printing by hand leads to adult-like neural processing in the brain’s visual system – much more than keyboarding. In addition, imaging studies of the brain show that gray matter volume and density correlate with handwriting quality and suggest there is more efficient neural processing and higher skills and ability in those who can write by hand.

Writing by hand helps improve the remembering and synthesizing of information, more so than taking classroom notes by typing onto a laptop.

The article notes that handwriting is a complex skill which engages multiple parts of the brain simultaneously, including regions responsible for cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills. It is best learned through direct instruction and should be taught in schools and preschool.