January 23rd is National Handwriting Day. Handwriting is celebrated on this day because it is the birthday of John Hancock–the man whose beautiful signature so boldly graces our Declaration of Independence:
A summit in Washington, D.C. today sought to raise awareness about the importance of handwriting in the digital age. The conference featured presenters of research from several disciplines–including psychology, education, and neuroscience–to highlight the role that handwriting plays in our cognitive and fine motor development.
An article in Education Week shared quotes from interviews with some of the summit’s presenters:
Ms. Berninger noted that when students struggle with handwriting, “people usually think, well, just put them on the computer.” But her studies of normally developing and struggling students learning handwriting suggest that may not be the solution. “It turns out that many of the problems relating to why they have trouble learning handwriting might also affect how they use a keyboard.”
When handwriting is not taught, reader comprehension may suffer, according to Steve Graham, a professor of special education and literacy at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., whose research was slated to be presented at the conference.
But more commonly, having legible but shaky handwriting “strongly impacts people’s perception of the quality of the message,” he said. In a meta-analysis of research on writing, his research team found that teachers and others scoring students’ tests are more likely to give lower marks to papers with less-legible handwriting.
I am glad this discussion is happening as states adopt the Common Core Standards (a national set of standards in Math and English/Language Arts). The Common Core standards apparently mention keyboarding, but not handwriting. I hope that states pay attention and include handwriting in their own curricula. Not giving students a real chance to develop their handwriting may impact their ability to communicate effectively the rest of their lives.
My favorite quote from the Ed Week article is from Angela Webb, chair of the United Kingdom’s National Handwriting Association:
“Journalists are writing about whether handwriting is a dying art,” Ms. Webb said of the British press. But, she said, “if we view it only as an art, we’ve missed the point entirely”—that “handwriting is a tool.”
I’d venture to say the same thing about writing letters!
I hope you celebrate what is left of National Handwriting Day by practicing your own penmanship on a letter. Write legibly so your recipient can enjoy the message. If you need help polishing your handwriting, here are a few sources I found. I haven’t used them, so I can’t make any promises. I just thought they were interesting.