Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why handwriting still matters

The following is an article from a Dutch graphology organization.

Author: Aartje Schoemaker/Platform Handschriftontwikkeling (Holland)
Translated by Annelies Hulzinga

On our site we feature an article called Handwriting must stay! In this article we present several reasons why we should keep on teaching handwriting. At the end is an extensive list for further reading.

Due to the advancement of technology:
a. there's less focus on the education of handwriting
b. it is questioned if it is still necessary to educate handwriting
c. so called Steve Jobs-schools are announced
d. children who have problems with mastering handwriting are often steered towards using the computer.
e the reason why we should learn how to write by hand is often lost due to unprofessional communication or the lack of information.

We welcome the use of technology when it's used, primarily, to improve and to support the personal and cognitive development of a child.

In the following topics we will expand on:
1      The mechanical aspect of handwriting
2      The neurological aspects
3      The improvement of spatial orientation
4      The psychological arguments
5      The impact on social interaction
6      Practical arguments
7      Esthetics
8      Historical arguments
9      Therapeutic arguments
10   The supportive role when learning how to read

In the appendix of this article you will find an extensive list of sources and scientific studies. The numbers between the brackets in that list refer to the topic number. The topics are more often related than separated topics that's why you will find overlap between them.

The mechanical aspect of handwriting
Handwriting is one of the most difficult abilities we teach to our children. It requires to a good coordination of your body. A precise coordination between eyes, brains and all your muscles from the neck to the fingers. A hand alone consists of 29 joints and 35 muscles; a fine piece of mechanics! This complex action depends on a lot of practice. The development of fine motor skills takes years. While writing your whole body is involved in the process. Handwriting positively affects the development of fine and gross motor skills.

The Neurological aspects
While writing several areas of the brain are connected: through contact with , the direction of and the pressure of the pen messages are sent to the brain. The repeating process of handwriting integrates motoric connections in the brain.
The cooperation of the left and right part of the brain is stimulated and maintained by among other things offering paper-based bimanual exercises.
Brain Development, -activity and function are improved. Think of spatial visualization ability and the ability of visual discrimination.
Also higher cognitive levels (thinking, language, memory) can be activated by the effects of the process of learning to write by hand.
“When a pupil is able to learn handwriting quickly and automatically, he or she is able to write down his or her thoughts before they are faded away. The maximum capacity of the brain is used in a proper and better way for creating sentences and ideas. If you have to reflect on how you're writing, cognitive sources are left unused”.
Handwriting helps memorizing the forms of letters. The visual identification of graphical shapes is supported by the writing movement.

The improvement of spatial orientation
By learning how to write a pupil also learns how to arrange the available space in a proper way. He/she learns to estimate distances and spacing of letters, words and lines.
Learning to write by hand supports the concept of direction : up, down, to the right, to the left, higher, lower, etc.. Understanding the difference between a long letter (k, j) and a short letter (a, n) is also learnt.

The psychological arguments
He or she who writes develops discipline is intrinsically. He/she learns that if you want to achieve anything you will have to work for it. Concentration is improved and along with it thinking and the level of intelligence. It brings order, peace and space in the minds of 'overactive' children. Being able to write stimulates self-confidence. Handwriting is a physical activity and therefore more in connection with our feelings. Being in motion yourself connects you with your emotions much faster than words.

The impact on social interaction
Writing is and always has been a means of communication. Messages can be transferred without the messenger being present. The push for being able to communicate with symbols was the first step towards the development of handwriting. Being able to communicate by letter makes it more easy to function in society. We learn to how to take into account other people. Is he or she able to read my writings? How do I present myself? A handwritten letter shows interest in the receiver. Proper handwriting education stimulates the upbringing of children to engaged citizens. “A lot of people will alienate themselves from the handwriting culture due to the extensive use of moving and/or animated media. Particularly due to this form of illiteracy they will find themselves at the dark side of our knowledge based society... Children will be considered a failure or handicapped when they're not able to write by hand.”

Not so long ago the social identity of the writer was defined by his handwriting and not the content of the text.

Practical arguments
Handwriting make mankind independent of electricity. Our autonomy is kept safe and we don't become a slave of technology. Handwriting is a practical basic skill, which serves every other skill in a supportive role. Good handwriting education improves school grades in a considerable way.
Quickly writing down an address, a short note to be put in someones mailbox, compiling a shopping list, writing a short note: being able to write quickly and readable is very convenient at these moments. Properly developed fine motor skills lead to the right handling of different kinds of tools. Think of a dentist or a surgeon.
The invention of the automobile didn’t keep us from walking. A pen is more affordable than an iPad.

From scribble to calligraphy
The refinement of control of the fine motor skills gives the opportunity to creative outbursts of culture. Writing by hand makes thoughts concrete and it can add beauty to it. The power of shaping thing in an artistic way is only seen in humans. A polished handwriting is a sight for sore eyes and creating a beautiful line brings much satisfaction.
Like Ballet is an esthetic way of dancing, is calligraphy an esthetic way of writing. Not so long ago, every form of handwriting was considered as the esthetic embodiment of the collective nature of the social, occupational or gender group using it exclusively.

Historical arguments
Throughout human history mankind left markings behind, created tracks, put up warning signs and has drawn holy symbols. This development of writing we also see in children growing up: it draws tracks in the sand with sticks, leaves marks where it has been, creates tablets of clay and spontaneously all sorts of forms  arise with all sorts of materials. If we do not teach the children handwriting we would deny them the last step in fine motor skills, brain and personal development.

Therapeutic arguments
Handwriting has it’s own unique motion. Emotions influence our way of moving. Graphologists en handwriting educators are able to perceive blockades in the stream of movements by observing handwriting. 
With handwriting movement therapy a.o. personal rhythm is recovered and self consciousness regained. In children’s handwriting problems can be noticed before children get stuck. Even together with and after a psychological examination  the handwriting therapist can add a valuable contribution.
Manual labor proves to be good for a human. It can activate the reward center in the brain.

The supportive role when learning to read
Writing by hand benefits learning to read because shapes of letter are recognized much earlier compared to when you type a letter on a keyboard. The motor memory supports the visual memory.

Statements in summary
One who does not learn how to write by hand will not evolve in an optimal way
One who does not learn how to write fails at many discipline
Due to lacking knowledge of teachers the education of handwriting starts too soon leading to cramps and deformation.
By writing by hand man learns how to use the available space and material efficiently.
If we denied children the education of handwriting, we would deny them the opportunity of writing ambition and performing at a higher level of thinking: this all what makes us human!
Handwriting is important for physical and mental health
The evolution of technology (e.g. a laptop) can be highly beneficial for children with learning and/or motor skill disabilities, but technology should never be or can be the substitute for the movement of writing.
A person skilled in handwriting has more possibilities to get a job and is way cheaper for society when it comes to welfare payments and medical costs.

We as humans are able to control our own motor skills and technique.
We must have them both at our disposal independently!

Translated by Annelies Hulzinga

- Met ‘bundel’ wordt bedoeld een deel uit de serie: “Over kinderhandschrift, schrijfopvoeding en schrijfonderwijs gesproken”  van D.
- De cijfers tussen haakjes corresponderen met de nummering van bovenstaande aspecten / argumenten.

Zie bij, onder Artikelen: Schrijven moet blijven!, 2008
Zie bij, onder Artikelen: Waarom kan en mag typen schrijven niet vervangen?, 2010

The Vanguard: Edda Manley – Report on handwriting in the 21st century, 2012(1, 2)
Bundel  7, hfdst.  3: Schrijven versterkt het lezen, Jean-Luc Velay & Marieke Longcamp, 2005 (10)
Bundel  8, hfdst.  6: Opvallende ontwikkeling en leerstoornissen in het schriftbeeld - Renate Joos, 2007 (5)
Bundel  8, hfdst.  3: Het verband tussen pen, pengreep, het schrijfresultaat en het individu - R. Sassoon, 2007 (6)
Bundel 16, hfdst  18: Dertienjarige jongen met dysgrafie, T.L. Hopkins: 13-jarige met dysgrafie, 2004 (1, 2, 6)
Bundel 18, hfdst.  2: The Hand: How It’s Use Shapes The Brain, Frank Wilson 1998 (2)
Bundel 18, hfdst.  2: Handwriting – Path to Literacy?, Jeannette Farmer, 1999 (4)
Bundel 19, hfdst.  3: De functie van het brein bij het leren schrijven, T. Danielsen, 1984 (2)
Bundel 19, hfdst. 12: Schrijfontwikkeling, vaardigheid en interventie, K. Feder, 2007 (2)
Bundel 24, hfdst. 10: Hoe schrijven het brein traint, Gwendolyn Bounds, 2010 (2)
Bundel 23, hfdst.  5 : Historische schrijfverschillen tussen jongens en meisjes, T. Plakins Thornton, 1996(5,6,7)
Bundel 23, hfdst.  7: Schrijfopvoeding en mensvorming, Dr. G. Rahn, 1961, (7, 9)
Bundel 26, hfdst.  4: De vele gezondheidsvoordelen van goed handschrift, J. Deardorff, 2011 (2, 4)
Bundel 26, hfdst.  2: De voordelen van cursief schrift, S. Blumenfeld, 2005 (3, 10)
Bundel 27, hfdst.  5: Waarom scholen schrijfonderwijs moeten geven, zelfs als typen nuttig is, K. Stokes, 2011 (2)
Bundel 27, hfdst.  9: Kunst van schrijven op punt van wederopleving , J. Hoermann, 2011 (2)
Bundel 27, hfdst. 10: Intelligentie en de kunst van cursief schrijven, dr. D. Sortino, 2011 (2, 10)
Bundel 28, hfdst. 12: Kinderen leren schrijven en het verband met de ontwikkeling van ruimtelijk bewustzijn bij het kind, A. Mc. Allen, 1977 (3)
Bundel 28, hfdst. 17: Schrijven en het brein: Neurowetenschap toont de wegen naar leren, Judy Willis 2011 (2)
Bundel 29, hfdst.   4: Het schrijven van kinderen verbeteren? Verwaarloos hun handschrift niet, Steve Graham, 2009/2010 (2, 5)
Bundel 29, hfdst.   6: Schrijven moet blijven, D. Schermer, 2006 (2, 10, 4)
Bundel 30, hfdst.   9: Waarom lopend schrift aanleren?, Iris Hatfield (2, 3, 4, 6, 10)
Bundel 30, hfdst.12: Waarom schrijven op school belangrijk is, Linda Green, 2012 (2, 5)
Bundel 31, hfdst.11: De verloren kunst, L.Rivkin, 2012 (1, 2, 4,)
Bundel 31, hfdst.18: Het nieuwste over de twee(!) basisschriften, Ines Grämiger, 2012 (2)
Bundel 32. hfdst.  1: Why You Learn More Effectively by Writing Than Typing, Melanie Pinola,, 2011 (1, 2, 4, 10)
SPH Nieuwsbrief, pg. 27, krantenartikel (2012) uit Canada: Karin Harman James, (2)
Idem                     pg. 28,      ,,         ,,      ,,     ,,     ,,      ,,    : Virginia Berninger, (2)
Idem                                                                                     : Katja Feder, (2)
Van pen naar toets?, José Riepstra, 2012
Evidence Statement ‘Motorische schrijfproblemen bij kinderen’, A. Overvelde e.a., p.10, 2011 (10)
Acta Psychol: The influence of writing practice on letter recognition in preschool children, J.L. Velay en M. Longcamp, 2005 (2, 10)
The Vanguard, jan-mrt.:Waarom lopend schrift aanleren, Iris Hatfield 2012 (10, 6, 3, 1,2)
Naar school; psychologie van 3 tot 8’, dr. Ewald Vervaet, 2007 ( 1, 3, 6, 10)
Grapho-Therapeutics, Pen and Pencil Therapy, P. de Sainte Colombe, 1ste druk 1966, 10e dr. 1988 (9)
Vier! Dec. 2010, pg. 45: ‘Lifting depression’, Kelly Lambert (1, 2, 9) neurowetenschapper
Het maakbare brein, Margriet Sitskoorn, Bert Bakker/ Amsterdam, 2007 (2, 9)
‘Visie VLSM’, zie Handschrift .., onbelangrijk?
Leren schrijven belangrijk in computertijdperk, Miriam van den Brand

Sources Handwriting must stay
Barkley, R. (1998): ADHD and the Nature of Self Control. In AHAF Journal, July-August 1998
Beschel, G. (1993): Beiträge zur Psychologie der Kinder- und  Jugendschrift, Hamburg
Coleman, A. (2001): Handwriting – Has it a Future? The Graphologist, Vol.19, No.3,
Issue 72, Autumn 2001
Cristofanelli, P. (2006): Du und Dein erster Weg durch die Handschrift, Herbolzheim
Dommelen, J. van (1999): Is er nog toekomst voor het schrijven? Symposium 1999
Jaar van het Handschrift. Rotterdam, 29 september 1999
Farmer, J. (1995/1996): Measuring Handwriting to Identify Thinking and Behavioral
Styles in Four Quadrants of the Brain. Journal of the American Society of Professional
Farmer, J. (1998): Now that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been labelled a self-control issue it’s time for old fashioned penmanship training. AHAF Journal, July-August 1998
Farmer, J. (2006): The Graphic Reality of Handwriting and Brain Dominance.
International Graphological Colloquium, Florence, September 2006
Gibson, M. (2006): Schrijven en lezen, sneller en beter. JSW, oktober 2006
Hagers, M.(2007): Leer kinderen snel schrijven, daar worden ze beter van. NRC-Handelsblad,
21-04-2007 n.a.v. Journal of Educational Psychology, Febr. 2007
Harris, R.S. (2001): The Handwriting Culture Versus Technology. The Graphologist,
Vol. 19, No.3, Issue 72, Autumn 2001
Harrison, Ph. (1985): Helping your Health through Handwriting. San Francisco
Niemeyer, A. (‘07): Onhandige kinderen moeten oefenen. NRC-Handelsblad, 05-07-07
Spear-Swerling, L. (2006): The Importance of Teaching Handwriting. LD OnLine, augustus 2006
Olivaux, R. (1988): Dysgraphy and Grapho-therapy. In: A. Carmi & S. Schneider: Experiencing Graphology. London
Schermer, D., Schoemaker-Ytsma, A C.M. (2001): Een leesbaar handschrift blijft noodzake-
lijk. In: D. Schermer & A.C.M. Schoemaker-Ytsma: Sprekend Schrift, Zevenaar/ Nieuwleusen
Schermer, D., Schoemaker-Ytsma, A.C.M. (2003): Waarom leren we nog schrijven?
In: D. Schermer & A.C.M. Schoemaker-Ytsma: Uitgesproken Schrift Zevenaar/Nieuwleusen
Velay, J.-L., Longcamp, M. (2007): Besser von Hand. Gehirn & Geist, 3/2007
Shanahan, (2006): Schrijfontwikkeling en leesproblemen. Tijdschrift voor Remedial
Teaching.  2006/3
Lethaby, W.R.: Writing and Civilisation
Diringer and David: Writing

      Vereniging Leraren Schoonschrijven en Machineschrijven,
      Instituut Haenen-van der Hout, 
      Platform Handschriftontwikkeling,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Meet Brainy, Campaign for Cursive's spokesbrain. We're working on our new website and plan to launch it on January 23, 2013. January 23 is National Handwriting Day, which was chosen by the National Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in the early 1980s because it was John Hancock's birthday. You remember John Hancock, who signed his name so large and bold on the Declaration of Independence to make sure King George would not need his spectacles to read it.
In the meantime, please spread the word about our blog, and invite friends, teachers, parents, therapists, and anyone else interested in the importance of handwriting to join.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bucking the Trend and Preserving Penmanship

The decline of penmanship is not a trend, rather a decline in the education of children that has been ongoing for quite some time. It began with penmanship being removed from the curriculum of teacher's colleges and gradually being de-emphasized in elementary schools. Many reasons were given for this change: not enough time, not enough money, and no longer necessary because the future belongs to electronic technology, just to name a few. Cursive has been in steady decline for over a decade. The ability to produce manuscript printing that is legible is declining at an even faster rate. There is a great risk that in a few years young children will not be required to produce any writing by hand.

The comments in response to this article were approximately two-thirds in favor of maintaining cursive handwriting, and I believe that accurately reflects the population at large. This might be the chief reason why many states are gradually realizing the folly of not keeping cursive writing in the curriculum.

Many parents and educators do not realize that manuscript printing has only been taught in schools for less than one hundred years. When it was first introduced in Great Britain in the early 1900's. Teachers very quickly realized that if students did not learn to write in cursive, they were also unable to read anything written in cursive. When this fact became obvious, many schools refused to teach manuscript printing because most students left school after grade eight to find employment. Teachers felt that students who were unable to read and write in cursive were handicapped in the workplace. Recently I was informed of a group of elementary school teachers who are shocked to realize that their students are unable to read anything written in cursive. History of less than 100 years ago is being repeated today.

Some European countries also chose to teach cursive first beginning in first grade. Manuscript printing was easily taught later in fourth or fifth grade. Most European countries and Spanish speaking countries ensure that students master cursive handwriting. As we are now a global society, these children will in future years be competing for jobs with North Americans. Students from these other countries will not only be able to read and write in cursive, but most will also have mastered this proficiency in more than one language.

Those who are in charge of determining public school curriculum know that handwriting is best taught/learned before the age of ten years old. This skill needs to be taught and practiced  well enough to become automatic. Teaching the formation of cursive letters usually only requires it to be done during one school year, and after that the practice component ensures the skill is  effectively learned. Once this occurs, even if a person does not use it regularly, it is easy to refresh the skill again with a bit of practice. Computer skills on the other hand can be effectively acquired at an older age - the entire baby boom and traditional generations are living proof this.

It is no secret that the present public education process is not delivering the hoped for outcomes These test results showed that at the grade eight level testing: 3% had advanced writing skills, 24% were proficient in writing, 54% had  basic (partial) skills, and 20% were below the basic level. 

Parents and students deserve better and need to demand more of the public education system. I believe that an education process that demonstrated excellent results through providing a solid foundation, which included  cursive handwriting, needs to be implemented again.  

Edda  Manley

Monday, November 26, 2012

Civil War letters

The Letters Exhibit at the Library of Congress from now to June 2013 The link contains a link showing actual handwritten letters from the Civil War period. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Build a Better Brain

The October 2012 Reader’s Digest has an interesting article, Build A Better Brain.  On the last page it lists 6 ways to get instantly smarter.  Number 4 is “Write by Hand,” which states:

“Remember what that feels like? Brain scans show that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing.  Bonus brain boost: it’s easier to remember something once you’ve written it down on paper.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Best Writing Curriculum for Elementary Schools

At this point in time we do not recommend any specific handwriting curriculum.  Our current effort is being placed on simply having cursive handwriting reinstated in the elementary curriculum since it has been omitted in the Common Core Curriculum.  

Ideally, children would focus on writing readiness in kindergarten by engaging in activities that would help develop both the gross and fine motor muscles and learn to hold a writing instrument using a proper grip. Beginning in first grade, children would learn to write using printed/manuscript  lettering. Emphasis would be placed on correct direction formation of these letters and legibility.  

Far too many educators today have no idea of proper writing posture: sitting at a desk, straight back, feet on the floor, paper slanted appropriately for a left- or right-handed writer. Instruction would be given in proper letter formations using standard acceptable directionality. Historically the most effective teaching method was the see it (teacher demonstrates proper letter formation), say it (simple words accompany the letter formation process), do it (the child writes the letter following the method demonstrated by the teacher).  

This method employs the three main methods of learning: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Enough time/practice should be given so that the writing process becomes automatic and the child then can focus on what is being written. Towards the end of the first grade most children will be proficient enough in printing that they can move on to cursive writing being taught during Grade Two.  

Following the teaching of cursive writing, children should be required to continue writing mainly in cursive and some printing for the remainder of the elementary school years. Emphasis would move towards continued legibility and increased speed in writing. By the end of eighth grade most children should have achieved competency in both manuscript printing and cursive writing.  During the high school years students would be permitted to choose to write either in cursive or printing.  Some handwriting should be required in high school as well,  possibly in both English and Math classes.

Edda Manley 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Response to a Campaign for Cursive letter

Thank you for contacting the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding penmanship. I appreciate that you have taken the time to share your perspective on this issue.
California’s standards were designed to encourage the highest achievement of every student by defining the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students should acquire at each grade level. The English-Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve were adopted by the California State Board of Education on November 14, 1997. You will find the standards on the CDE Content Standards Web page at
At every grade level, the English-Language Arts standards cover reading, writing, written and oral English language conventions, and listening and speaking. Grade by grade, the standards create a vision of a balanced and comprehensive language arts program, and penmanship is no exception. In particular, the content standards include penmanship as part of Writing Strategies. Emphasizing legible print and cursive writing, penmanship begins in kindergarten and extends through high school. In this way, penmanship is a well-defined thread that is woven throughout the document.
The following are just a few examples of English-Language Arts content standards that focus on penmanship skills throughout a California student's school career:
· Kindergarten Writing Strategies, Penmanship, 1.4: [Students] write uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet independently, attending to the form and proper spacing of the letters.
· Grade 4 Writing Strategies, Penmanship, 1.4: [Students] write fluidly and legibly in cursive or joined italic.
· Grades 9 and 10 Written and Oral English Language Conventions, Manuscript Form, 1.4: [Students] produce legible work that shows accurate spelling and correct use of the conventions of punctuation and capitalization.
If you have any additional questions, please contact the Literacy, History, and Arts Leadership Office by phone at 916-323-6269.

Again, thank you for contacting the CDE.


Tom Torlakson
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Monday, July 30, 2012

Handwriting Skill takes time to develop

We are hardwired to learn how to speak.  Babies discover that they can make a sound and begin to consciously make more sounds beginning around five months. They then continue on to form individual words such as Mama or Dada, then put two words together, then more words are put together and finally around the age of three years old full sentences are being spoken. We  accept that oral language takes time to develop.  Not acquiring verbal language in a reasonably appropriate time can be an indicator of further developmental delays.
We are not hardwired to write by hand. This is a skill that needs to be acquired, that is, taught by someone who has mastered the skill and learned by the student. For thousands of years young children have been able to acquire this skill. One factor remains a constant: it takes practice.
Cursive writing was quietly eliminated in a very gradual process. The subject remained in the official curriculum. Once it was taught for a short period of time, schools did not give any attention to the practice component. In other words, they were not required/expected to write in cursive after they were taught how to form the letters. This was a fundamental step in the decline of cursive. Teaching cursive only requires part of one year's curriculum, after that it's simply a matter of getting enough practice for the writing to become automatic. Speed of writing also increases through practice.
One educator told me that he was requested to type all tests and homework assignments because the students who were having difficulty with writing cursive would not be able to read the tests and this would put them at a disadvantage.
Educators today will tell parents that children will be fine if they are able to print. Many teachers are led to believe that cursive handwriting is simply too difficult for children to master nowadays. Today's children are able to master cursive writing, private schools, tutoring centres and most home schooled children prove that they are still able to write in cursive.
More children's activities:
Take a medium size wicker bread basket and put 20 or so large buttons or large tubular pasta in the basket.  Another child (or adult) hits the bottom of the basket firmly so the items in the basket "jump up".  The child must see how many of the items he/she can gather before they drop down into the basket again.  This activity encourages reflex development as well as grasping skills.
Blow bubbles outside at an easy to reach height for the child and then see how many bubbles the child can burst using one hand and then the other hand.
Edda Manley

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Wall St. Journal published an article about a scientific breakthrough that will allow disabled people to “write” with their eyes. Notice, he has them writing in cursive, not print. I’m guessing because it’s easier to keep the flow going.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Can't write - Can't Read

An interesting thing many people don't know is that if you don't learn to write in cursive, you also are unable to read cursive writing. I only learned about this a few years ago when a Grandmother told me how her Granddaughter was unable to read what she wrote in her birthday card.  True enough, when I checked further many young people today are unable to read anything written in cursive.  Even many of the younger teachers today cannot read cursive writing.
Recently I read about countries in Europe who never adopted teaching printing at school. In Scotland in the early 1900's the teachers also quickly discovered that if children were not taught to write in cursive they would be unable to read anything written in cursive. In those days education was much less regulated and many students would leave formal schooling by the age of 11 or 12 years old to help their families financially.  Girls would often stay home to help their mothers care for the younger children in the family, or they might work for other households to help earn money for the family. Boys could start to learn skills helping their fathers or in factory jobs. It was important that the students get as much education as possible before that age. Reading, writing and basic arithmetic was taught beginning in grade one and most students had enough knowledge in these subjects to function in their day-today lives. Teachers believed that not being able to read and write in cursive meant the student was handicapped for the rest of  his/her life. Since schooling in those days was purely for the purpose of educating students, teachers knew what worked well and stuck with the tried and true methods.
It's also interesting to me that the reverse is not true. If a child is not taught to print, rather is taught cursive writing beginning in grade one, he/she is still able to read printed text in books as well as on signs and even hand printed information. For some reason the brain doesn't recognize connected cursive letters in the same way it does printed letters. 
So here we are 100 years later and the education leaders have a completely different attitude towards cursive - eliminate it from the education system altogether.
More children's activities:
Cut up a few different coloured drinking straws into different sized pieces.  Thread a large darning needle with thin yarn or kitchen string and make a large knot oat one end.  Have your child string the straw pieces onto the yarn and then make this into a necklace.
Search for 4-leaf clovers in the grass or make a pretty wildflower bouquet.  Older children can try to identify the names of the picked flowers.  
Make a whistle using long blades of grass held between the outer edges of both thumbs.  Blow on the grass blade to make a whistling sound.
Edda Manley

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fantastic News!!!

States are allowed to amend up to 15% of the document and the state of Georgia did just that. The Georgia Department of Education added cursive writing in the curriculum.

Iris Hatfield, Handwriting Coach
Author, New American Cursive
Penmanship Program

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Short video presentation

Here's a video of the short presentation Sheila Lowe recently gave on the decline of cursive writing and what you can do to help

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cursive is Faster

A year ago Katie Zezima wrote an article for the New York Times about the decline in handwriting. There were over 220 comments to that article. The most frequently stated reason for why people chose to write in cursive was that it was faster to produce. At the University of Western Ontario, Canada, Marvin Simmner PhD conducted a study that showed students who wrote in cursive indeed were faster writers than those who printed. 
When we look at printing it certainly looks like it would take less movement and energy to produce, so logically then it should be faster. The reason printing is not faster is because every letter requires you to lift the pen from the paper, sometimes more than once. Those pen lifts take time, and the short bits of time it takes for each pen lift add up. The visual I like to compare this to is if you have a stack of books at one end of the table and you want to move them to the other end of the table, you can either slide them over (similar to cursive) or lift them and carry them (similar to printing).
Even printing by young children is changing yet again. Teachers are accepting their individual ways of forming the letters. For example, a lower case "p" can be made like a candy cane starting with the hook part and going up and around to the left. Similarly, with the lower case "m & n," one or two humps is acceptable without the straight stroke first. As long as it's a reasonable facsimile of the letter, it is acceptable.
Now that children are on school vacation, parents are looking for activities to keep the little ones busy. I'll end with a few suggestions for activities that help develop both the fine and gross motor skills that are used for handwriting:
Give children an empty detergent bottle and a pail of water.  They can fill the bottle, twist on the top and then "paint" the driveway or sidewalk with water. This activity helps to build hand strength  and dexterity in the fingers.
If you have containers with various sized nails, screws, nuts and bolts children can keep busy sorting them by size and type and putting them in smaller containers or small plastic bags. Older children can also learn the names of the fasteners and what they are used for. This helps develop the fine motor skills.
Summertime is a great time to have Wheel Barrel Races in the grass. One child holds the legs of the other child who tries to get to a line a few feet ahead walking on their hands. This is great for strengthening the arms and wrists.
Edda Manley

Monday, July 2, 2012

Campaign for Cursive - You can help!
Here's a link to some information about how you can help in the Campaign for Cursive: Please join in and let us know how many letters you sent and to whom you sent them. Send at least 5 letters and ask at least 5 people to do the same. We can crank up the volume loud enough to be heard! If after reading the PDF in the link you need any help with your letters or finding your local legislators, send an email to

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Letter Writing Campaign

Penmanship training needs to be brought back to schools for the reasons outlined in the posts on this blog. We are preparing some letter templates for you to use to write to your legislators. The specific movements taught in penmanship exercises help children to develop better impulse control and combat the bombardment of the right brain from video games and TV. 
Check back soon, or contact for copies of the templates now.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cursive-the Phenomenon of Writing

50th Anniversary of the American Association of Handwriting Analysts - Special Event!
Join us at our special conference event to learn how cursive is phenomenal. It is the most complex of all movements since it involves both sides of the brain, nerve impulses, motor muscles, reflexes, eyesight, and memory. Every move of the pen holds characteristic dynamics of inner impulses which make them as unique and distinctive as a fingerprint. As a phenomenal brain exercise, cursive stimulates learning. Our mission is for required teaching of cursive in the U.S. Education program.
A pre-convention workshop will be held on July 18, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Introduction to Handwriting Analysis: A Primer" by Edda Manley for $45. Fifteen other speakers have spectacular presentations planned.
Contact Karen Whittemore at 248-477-3630 or for reservations or further information.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“Write” of Passage”

Thanks to Mrs. Sharon Caines, a dedicated 6th grade teacher, who wrote this article and allowed us to print it.

What is Cursive Writing?  It is an interlocking, twisting, turning, intricate dance that is done with pen on paper to create a fluid and continuous flow of the written word that artfully glides across one’s page. After witnessing over 25 years of the deterioration of the handwriting skill fall into an abyss of virtually non-writers, I became determined to take action about the lack of writing skills.  My Principal initiated the idea and we developed it together.  It was rejuvenating to know that my Principal was in total agreement with me.  We both shared a common vision.  Our goal was to revive the skill and beauty of penmanship.
Cursive writing unlocks the mystery of literature.  Even the constitution that once was elusive like a foreign language became comprehensible to students.  Cursive writing encourages concentration and ultimately produces an independent and legible written product.
I have found that males are better users of the script form, because they feel it resembles the fluid movement of graffiti.  Males tend to write better in script than print format.  The females as well are better in script format.  The script format is beautiful and appealing - almost artful and intricate in production.  Printing however interrupts the smooth and natural flow of thought.  The Print Style fractures thinking patterns that produce choppy, illegible (lump) group of words together.  It is poor in appearance of a written piece of work.
How can we be a part of the Global Community if our students cannot write their signature in script form, apply for a job application, or a driver’s license?  The other side is that printing, which is taught first in school, is in no better shape than the script form.  Students do not have sufficient time to master the skill of writing.
Why is it when documents require a signature, our children “print” their names?  From filling out applications for summer employment, to healthcare documents, and W2 forms, students struggle with writing their names in script.  Will society reverse to the time of placing an “X” where a person’s legal script is required on a document?
Economic Recession conditions today have thrust us into a situation whereby going back to basics is more reliable and cost effective.  The constant maintenance of computers is a price outside most families’ basic needs.  Costly computer and printer maintenance do take a toll on the family financial means.  Ironically, however the State Standardize Exams given in public schools require students to take independent notes from a given Read Aloud passage.  The Basic Test Skills (BICS) screams for us to step back, reflect, and regroup on the need to teach writing as a skill in the classroom.
We reinvented the wheel so many times that we forgot to screw it on with the bolt.  Even with the emergence of hand held computers –Ipad, Tablet etc not everyone (especially the school system) can afford to purchase these items.  The act of simply jotting down a grocery list, a phone number has become so complicated and difficult for our students.
The rewards to knowing and mastering the Writing Skills are overwhelming.  Students that have learned Script marvel at their accomplishments and exhibit a sense of confidence, fulfillment and independence.  This positive achievement spills over into other core subject areas.  The students become critical linear thinkers.
We cannot afford to lose cursive writing skills to the computer or any new technology.  The freedom of writing thoughts on parchment is an act and ability which will outlive any new digital device which can be erased and lost through one push of a button or a power surge of electricity---ZAP!!!...AND NO HARD COPY!!
 Submitted: Sharon C. Caines
                  Organizational Skills/Penmanship Teacher
                  Thomas C. Giordano School-M.S. 45
                   Bronx, New York

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Lost Art - Lena Rivkin

I am staggered by the trend of eliminating cursive writing as a required course in our nation's public schools.  We should be teaching our children more not less. While much has been rightly and passionately written above regarding the statistics and science of what cursive writing contributes to educating a well rounded adult, I feel compelled to contribute from my own perspective. 
If we care more about short cuts than teaching cursive writing, the loss of individual intimacy in regards to letter writing will be profound. Cursive writing involves the integration of the body, both hemispheres of the brain as well as building the connective tissue between the letter writer and the letter reader. Because we know there are serious drawbacks in brain development that can occur when cursive writing is not implemented, it's horrifying to imagine schools no longer willing to improve young minds in their foolhardy pursuit of ways to 'shortcut' education. How can a country fully and competitively educate a child without educating all of the child?
To me, the severity of the loss is the loss of human contact--contact of the hand to the pen, and the pen to the paper. Simply printing letters does not promote the art of writing in the way that cursive writing not only connects each letter to each other, but also serves to connect the emotional thoughts the writer is attempting to convey. 
As I am an artist as well as a graphologist, I always make personal cards for friends and family. The act of making the card and cursively writing a personal message to each person connects me to them, and them to me in a way that transcends what an email or text or store bought greeting card can do. While the immediacy of a text or instant message is tantalizing in the time that it saves, why is it that no one seems to have any extra time?  
The instant gratification of messaging from PDA to smartphone is not a technological advance I can personally retreat from. I compensate for that convenience by reaching out to those near and dear to me via pen, paper, ink and the connecting script of the D'Nealian method that I loved learning back in the third grade of my public school in Studio City, California. When you write in cursive, you cannot multitask. The mere act of cursive writing forces you to be in the moment with your thoughts... and imagine what a different world this would be if we communicated with thought and intent, as opposed to shortcuts and abbreviations.
To write and/or receive a hand-written letter is a gift in itself. To eliminate cursive writing as an educational tool that has merely fallen by the wayside is a complete disgrace--as it only furthers the divide of detachment from human to human. Short cuts in education never serve the student, only the administration looking to save money. If we truly are to remain a global leader in education, creativity and innovation, we must fully contribute to the complete and integrated growth of our children, which includes lost languages, lost art and hopefully not the art of cursive writing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Edda Manley on Printing

I recently gave a day long workshop on analyzing printing.  When I first began studying handwriting over twenty years ago and a group of people gave samples of handwriting, usually all but one or two samples were in cursive writing. The two or so that printed I would ask if they worked in a technical field such as Engineering, Architecture or Mechanics. If they didn’t work in any of those fields I would ask if they were criticized for their cursive writing when they were learning to write in cursive. Usually the response was affirmative. In those days there were also lots and lots of stories about strict nuns who went to extreme measures to try to motivate the young children to write neatly. A yardstick rapped over the knuckles was often a common story. So, the first opportunity these people had to go back to printing they gladly took it.

Today, if I ask a group of people under the age of twenty for samples of handwriting, there might be one or two students who write in cursive, the rest print. I would ask those who used cursive if they went to private school or if they had parents who made sure they learned how to write in cursive. The answer was usually Yes.

From my experience in looking at handwriting for over twenty years I believe that we always have and will always continue to have some people who gravitate more to the technical professions and others who prefer to work in the people professions. There seems to be quite a strong desire to go into one or the other areas. It also means they do not like to do the opposite tasks very much. 

Here are two examples I’ve experienced.  A few years ago, a Human Resources Professional told me that in his company there were many technical professionals such as Engineers, Mechanical Design people and the like. He never had performance problems with these people.  All were conscientious, hard working and dedicated employees. What he did have on a very regular basis however were “people problems.” Usually, it would be a female coming into the HR office in tears over an issue that the technical people didn’t even know they had caused or how to prevent from happening. Dealing with people was a huge difficulty for the technical people.

A few years ago I was talking to a relative who was a career Registered Nurse. This profession was her passion and her life.  She knew she was a skilled and experienced professional. At this time the hospital where she worked was bringing in computers to handle patient records. Now, at 60 years old she was going to have to spend considerable time learning to type and use this new electronic technology. This is not what she had signed up to do. She was so frustrated and upset over the whole situation that she was looking into retiring early. We sometimes see similar situations with teachers where the parents raise funds to ensure that each classroom has its own “Smartboard.” Some teachers who are better in the electronic technologies gravitate to it and use it extensively, while others have a very expensive dust collector in their class because they are creative enough to find other fun activities to engage the children in.

We had our highest literacy rates in North America in the years after WWII when both printing and cursive was thoroughly taught. At the end of the recent Summit meeting in DC it was agreed that students should be taught both so that they have the possibility of choosing which writing style they prefer to use. I think we’ll find in the end that some will continue to mainly print and others will choose to write in cursive.  With children now only being taught printing there is no choice and I believe this can create difficulties for them. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Can we learn from Mexico? - Edda Manley

We can have 101 reasons why we need to write in cursive, but until we find some that connect with parents, teachers, and students on an emotional level, change won’t happen. 

1) Children who are able to learn to write in the USA (same goes for Canada) are those where the parents have enough money to send the children to private schools or tutors.  I fear this will ultimately lead to a “class” system. Ironically, I don’t think most teachers have salaries high enough to send their children to private schools. Something for teachers to think long and hard about.

2) Most Latin-based language countries (all of South America and Central America and others around the world) value cursive writing or “caligrafia” as they call it and make sure their children are able to write fluently. This will, in the future, put North American children at a disadvantage from a global perspective.

We have so much valid information about the Importance of Handwriting, yet we stay on the wrong road instead of getting back onto the right road. 

3) At a 2002 conference that we hosted in Canada, one of our presenters, Inez Emmaus from Mexico, told us that for over 18 years only printing was taught in Mexico because in those days, their President didn't like to write in cursive so he banned it from the schools. Around the year 2000, the education leaders of the country decided that cursive was to be brought back into the curriculum. The first thing they had to do was to send the teachers who could not write in cursive back to school to learn how to write and teach cursive.
Maybe the thought of bringing Mexican people into the USA to teach American children how to write in cursive will inspire the education leaders to look after own. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why handwriting is important in school

Compiled by Linda Green

Cursive is an important skill to help train the brain. Jeanette Farmer,  Retrain the Brain, has proven that over and over that rhythmic cursive skills make a difference.

The keyboard seems to be replacing the pen, but is that progressive or damaging to school children?
Forty-two states now do not require that cursive handwriting be part of the curriculum in school.
Why the concern?

  • Thirty percent (30%) of children are dysgraphic.
  • Parents are worried that their children may not know how to sign their names.
  • The SAT and Advanced Placement exams currently require handwritten essays.
  • Ninety-nine percent of college students takes notes and perceive handwriting as important.
  • Journal research has shown that those who write their thoughts in journals are better able to solve their problems than those who don’t journal. This seems to link handwriting to a cathartic effect.
  • Writer Julia Cameron has her students do Morning Pages in their own handwriting. Those who have gone to the keyboard to write the pages have come back to the pen and paper, finding that they did not have quite the creativity with the keyboard that they do with the handwriting.
  • Graphotherapy has been shown to bring about positive changes in personality with handwriting exercises, demonstrating the importance of cursive writing
  • Handwriting therapy is being used successfully all over the nation, according to Jeanette Farmer, with children having disabilities.
  • Research is now showing that the sensory act of cursive writing is conducive to brain development and language fluency.

Rand Nelson of Peterson Directed Handwriting indicates that when children are exposed to cursive handwriting, changes occur in their brains, which allow a child to overcome motor challenges. He says, “the act of physically gripping a pen or pencil and practicing the swirls, curls and connections of cursive handwriting activates parts of the brain that lead to increased language fluency.”
Dr. David Sortino ( recommends cursive handwriting as a strategy to stimulate brain synchronicity—that is to coordinate the  right side of the brain or visual, with the left side or verbal and linear areas of the brain.
Iris Hatfield, creator of the New American Cursive Program (, believes that the connection between cursive writing and brain development is a powerful tool to stimulate intelligence and language fluency as well as improve neural connections in the brain. “The physiological movement of writing cursive letters helps build pathways in the brain while improving mental effectiveness which may continue throughout the child's academic career.
Shadmehr and Holcomb of John Hopkins University did a study that showed their subjects’ brains actually changed in reaction to physical instruction such as cursive handwriting lessons which resulted in an “almost immediate improvement in fluency,” which led to later development of neural pathways.  As a result of practicing motor skills, the researchers found that knowledge becomes more stable.
Author Matthew Geiger says there are psychosocial benefits to cursive handwriting. “As our brains learn to connect our inner worlds to the external universe, we begin to connect our inner worlds to the external universe. We begin to recognize abstract ideas like awareness of others and perception
Virginia Berninger, University of Washington, offers that handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key. Brain mapping has illustrated that sequential finger movements activate massive regions involved in thinking, language, and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information. In one study of grades two, four and six, the children wrote more words, they wrote faster, and they expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.
Handwriting increases neural activity. At an Indiana University study one group of children practiced printing letters by hand while a second group just looked at examples of ABCs. Both groups entered a functional MRI (disguised as a spaceship) that scanned their brains as the researchers showed them letters. The neural activity in the first group was far more advanced and “adult-like.” It showed that learning had taken place. (Functional MRIs show oxygen use in the affected areas).
Anne Mangen at University of Stavanger’s Reading Center says, “handwriting seems, based on empirical evidence from neuroscience, to play a larger role in the visual recognition and learning of letters.” Those who learn to write by hand learn better.
Mangen cites an experiment where two groups of adults were taught a new, foreign alphabet. One group learned the characters by hand, the other learned only to recognize them on a screen and with a keyboard. Weeks after the experiment, the group that learned the letters by hand consistently scored better on recognition tests than those who learned with a keyboard. Brain scans of the hands-on group also showed greater activity in the part of the brain that controls language comprehension, motor-related processes and speech-associated gestures.
Handwriting is one of the most difficult neuromuscular tasks involving proper eye focus, integration between the two hemispheres of the brain, fine motor activity, with more brain activation when writing.
Important points about cursive writing:
1. Cursive writing, once mastered, is faster than printing because the small pen lifts that result in printed letters actually slow down the writing process.
2. Children with learning disabilities are able to produce better written outcomes when using cursive because each pen break/pen lift when printing causes a minuscule disruption in the thinking process.