Two Wise Gals have some thoughts on a recent Simply Stated/Real Simple blog entitled “Handwriting in the Digital Age “ by Erin Kane. In responding to parent concerns regarding the importance of handwriting, there are some assumptions we have made. First, the handwriting difficulty is in both manuscript and cursive. Second, the illegibility is the result of a failure to formulate letters corresponding to sounds and not the result of a neurotic teacher’s penchant for perfection. Finally, the indiscernible handwriting is the result of an inability to master rather than a progression toward a personalized, relaxed handwriting style that evolved after mastery was attained.
If our assumptions are correct, what may seem like an automatic task involving little more than poor small muscle motor skills that can be remedied with a keyboard, handwriting actually involves critical thinking skills and is a vital part in learning to read and communicate. In learning to read and write a child realizes that letters represent certain sounds and groups of letters represent words. Through the kinesthetic aspect of mastery the writing process enables the brain to produce memory pathways and become proficient with this knowledge. Once automaticity is achieved the brain’s capacity is available to go onto higher levels of written communication, i.e., vocabulary selection, organization of thoughts, and synthesis of sources, whether this be with a pencil or a keyboard.
When a child is experiencing difficulty with basic letter formations, memory pathways are not being successfully formed and automaticity is not being achieved. This not only prevents the brain from progressing to higher levels of communication, but can also be indicative of other learning difficulties. Whether in the desk age or the digital age, the source of the problem may not necessarily be in the movement of the hand, but rather in the thought processing of the brain.