Many long time teachers feel that children struggle more now than they did 30 years ago with fine motor skills, which impacts legibility in both manuscript and cursive handwriting. Occupational therapists attribute much of this to the “back to sleep” movement, the frequent use of a variety of infant seats and carriers, increased screen time and decreased “typical” childhood play. So many of a child’s foundational skills are built during the first five years of life through play. Tummy time, creeping, crawling, climbing, running and overall coordination play helps build core strength, balance, oculomotor and coordination skills, while manipulating toys of various shapes and sizes helps to develop fine motor skills. If these foundational skills are not fully developed, we cannot produce proficient writers or keyboarders. It goes without saying that handwriting itself is much more than just a fine motor skill. Therefore, in order to build the fine motor skills that are critical to writing and keyboarding, it is important to establish good foundational motor skills.
In a 2013 New York Times article by Suzanne Baruch Asherson OT, the importance and relevance of cursive writing was discussed. Research has shown that puttingpen to paper stimulates the brain like nothing else, even in this technological age. In fact, learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language, and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something that is absent from printing and typing. In a 2006 Chicago Tribune article, it was reported that students who learn both cursive and print perform better on reading tests. Many educators, including those at the Landmark School, use cursive to help students with dyslexia.
It is felt that the physical act of writing in cursive leads to increased comprehension and participation. Interestingly, a few years ago, the College Board found that students who wrote in cursive for the essay portion of the SAT scored slightly higher than those who printed, which experts believe is because the speed, automaticity, and efficiency of writing in cursive allowed the students to focus on the content of their essays. Cursive, therefore, is vital to helping students master basic written expression and critical thinking; life skills that are crucial throughout life.