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Is it still important for children to learn handwriting?

handwriting still important

In this day and age of laptops, smart phones and tablets we make use of technology on a daily basis. We can order groceries online, do internet banking, type up contracts, book holidays and connect with friends. So the question of “is it really necessary for children to learn handwriting” comes up often. Parents regularly ask if it wouldn’t be more beneficial for schools to place an emphasis on typing rather than on handwriting in this modern world. As an Occupational Therapist, my answer to this question is a resounding NO!!

Even though handwriting seems to be an outdated medium for communicating, there is lots of evidence to suggest that it is an essential tool for LEARNING. Studies have been performed using MRI scans (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to measure brain activity while doing handwriting tasks. The same studies were conducting while performing typing tasks. The results revealed that while engaging in handwriting tasks, many areas of the brain were activated including the working memory and language centres. This helps later on with the development of reading. None of these areas were activated during typing tasks. The reason for handwriting activating so many neural centres is largely because of the sequential finger movements we use when writing. Typing is only the act of pressing a key and thus does not activate the same learning centres. Thus we can conclude from these studies that developing the skill of handwriting is essential for learning as it teaches us HOW to learn by creating internal models for different symbols. It also allows us to engage in problem solving and planning around HOW to form the letters. The link between handwriting (transcribing letters) and writing (the composition of written content) is critical, as is the link between writing and academic performance. Studies show that children who are better at writing, score higher academic results. They also show that in order to be good at writing, one needs to be efficient with handwriting. Handwriting improvement is associated with higher quality written (or typed) text.

Children learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, and they are also better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just WHAT we write that matters — but HOW we learn to write!