But for how much longer? Is cursive handwriting a dying art, and if it is, will anyone care?
A study conducted by Marianne McTavish, a professor who specializes in language and literary education at the University of British Columbia, showed a surprising result. Students were required to complete various writing tasks on a computer and by hand. The results showed that children who write well not only have better confidence and self-esteem, but also demonstrate far better concentration and an increased ability to express themselves creatively.
Judy Wickham of Brooklin, Ont., formerly in nursing, is a busy mom with two school-age children. “In my work activities, legible handwriting was an absolute must. So much depended on it. I feel that achieving good handwriting helped my kids develop their confidence. They began to read more and ask me umpteen questions about what they had been reading, at times stretching my imagination to respond.”
Jason Nolan, a professor of early childhood studies at Ryerson University in Toronto says, “Just because our children are using technology in the classroom does not bring about a staggering advancement in education. Present tools are no better than those of the past if they are not put to good use. Our goals as parents and educators must be to teach children to express themselves, challenge themselves and then exceed their own expectations.”
Our children continue to demonstrate just how skillful they are on a keyboard, but parents should be pleased to learn that right across Canada, lessons on handwriting continue to be taught in all our provinces. Ontario begins instructing pupils on the basic elements of this in Grades 3 and 4.
Jennifer Leclerc, a superintendent of teaching and learning in Peterborough, Ont., says, “Our curriculum expects students to be proficient in this activity by Grade 5.” In Nova Scotia this is taught in Grades 3 through 6, while on the west coast, British Columbia starts in Grade 3 and by the following grade the focus turns to handwriting with an awareness of alignment, shape and slant.
Looking beyond the school years, handwriting is still important, for in many professions this ability is a necessary requirement. While job descriptions do not specify this, those in health-care, engineering, research, advertising, journalism, security and law enforcement all depend heavily on this skill.
While many employers are reluctant to admit using graphology (the analysis of handwriting), it is a part of the screening process to assess an applicant’s personality as well as ability to grow in the role.
A recent BBC News report on employment noted that “...while reliable figures are difficult to come by, graphologists say that between 50 percent and 75 percent of companies make some use of handwriting analysis even if it is only an element of their overall assessment.”
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2014.