Children these days are experts at texting, and many are more proficient at using a computer than a pencil.
However, many kids, including my own who are now teenagers, didn’t get much – if any – cursive instruction in elementary school. I think they each might have had a few days of practice, but obviously not enough to make it stick.
I have since taught them how to at least sign their names, but they still have trouble reading birthday cards from their grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Some teachers, therapists and parents think writing in cursive is still a valuable skill, one that might soon be a lost art form.
“I feel it is important for this generation of children to learn cursive because if it gets left behind, I think it will be more and more difficult to bring back,” teacher Julieann Swann said.
Swann teaches fifth-grade Chinese Immersion at Hilton Head Island Elementary School and has always advocated for cursive writing in school. She said the skill is especially important for younger children to learn when they are learning stroke development.
Unfortunately, Swann said teachers often don’t have much time to teach cursive after they get through the other English Language Arts requirements of reading, writing, spelling and grammar. Another challenge is the fact that a single class can include students at varying levels of literacy, which means teachers spend extra time working with the struggling students.
“When teachers are faced with limited time, we need to simultaneously determine what the best needs for each child are, as well as the class as a whole,” Swann said. “Often, cursive writing is not as urgent of a need as reading and basic writing.”
Beaufort County School District does now teach cursive in second and third grades, but prior to 2015, they did not. According to Candace Bruder, the district’s director of communications, cursive instruction was added to district standards through the Back to Basics in Education Act of 2014, S.C. Code Ann. § 59-29-15.
Pediatric occupational therapist Julianne Sullivan said cursive is an important skill for children to learn.
“It’s important for functional use,” Sullivan said. “You have to be able to sign your name and be able to take notes quickly.”
Sullivan said cursive is also important because it builds the neural pathways in the brain that are associated with fine motor dexterity, and visual and tactile processing,
Jessi Dolnik, owner of Lowcountry Therapy Center, a speech language pathologist, and homeschooling mom of six, said research has shown cursive to be a valuable tool in helping children with motor challenges because it requires less motor planning than printing.
“It’s a fluid way of writing,” Dolnik said. “Your pencil doesn’t have to come up off the paper. You can rest the base of your hand on the paper to give yourself support.”
Dolnik is currently teaching her third-grader, Cassidy, how to write in cursive. Her fifth-grader, Charlie, already writes beautifully in cursive, Dolnik said. He learned the skill in second grade at May River Montessori School. She said some of the classes there start learning cursive even earlier.
The kids who do know how to write in cursive speak sort of a secret code that their peers don’t all understand. “For many students,” Swann said, “it is like being able to read and write in another language.”
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.