Is cursive a lost art?

By Harry W. Pope on March 25, 2014
In the English speaking world, linking letters together first started to appear in a limited way during the 11th century, but handwriting resembling anything close to what we would recognize today did not come into its own until some 600 years later. Despite undergoing many varied changes over the passing years, it remains with us today.

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.”

How to engage your child in writing activities.

  • Provide writing materials that your kids will enjoy. Purchase cute note and greeting cards, notepads with their favourite characters and child-appealing stationery. Buy pens with a finger grip for good control. Having plenty of colours on hand will make writing more fun.
  • Encourage your child to write and mail postcards while on vacation. A quick, five-line postcard to grandma will make her day.
  • Make thank-you cards a habit, sending notes after birthday gifts or holiday gifts are received. Lead by example and write some of your own, too.
  • Work together on a grocery list before hitting the stores.
  • Children often like to do homework while lying on the floor but this restricts how to write properly. Left-handed children can develop a cramped curled, hand position in this way. Sitting upright helps prevent this.
  • Use lined paper to help a child who struggles to draw letters of a consistent size.
  • Draw, colour and paint. If your child doesn’t want to practise his or her penmanship, just having a crayon or marker in hand will help.
  • Explain to your child why handwriting remains important today. For example – it expresses the personality of an individual and assists in their ability to read. Many occupations require that employees possess legible handwriting.

 

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2014.


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