Technology has made it easier to communicate, and each year students start using using laptops and computers earlier. Even babies are experts at scrolling through tablets and smart phones before they pick up their first crayon. So why would it be important for kids to learn penmanship? Citing a possible post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world might convince kids these days, but there are more scientific reasons. While texts and e-mails can be efficient, a hand-written note or post card is more than a novelty. Many studies show that learning to write enhances brain function. Sure, learning a keyboard does that too. When tested, though, young children learned their letters faster by writing them. Handwriting also gives you time to formulate more thoughtful, articulate answers beyond, say, LOL. Learning to write left to right is also very important for kids struggling with dyslexia. Putting letters on to paper actually helps them make better sense of words. Writing your letters—even just learning to hold a pencil—is an important step in developing gross motor skills—a crucial building block in later learning. Ironically, schools that drop all but standardized test prep often eliminate penmanship lessons only to have kids face required hand-written essays on the very same tests. Homework, job applications and college material require hand-written portions and admission officers have noted that good penmanship certainly has the upper hand over illegible or immature chicken scratch. So how can you get your kid excited about penmanship?
The key is to start early and get them physically writing. Avoid repetitive assignments and focus on fun word association or even mad-lib games. Apps such as WritePad and ABC PocketPhonics (a Parents’ Choice Award winner) combine technology and writing, allowing kids to write their letters with fingers or a pencil-like stylus. You don’t have to settle for dull ink anymore either, as pens and markers come in a rainbow of colors—some even scented. Harry Potter made quills cool again, and for those so inclined, you can try real ink and parchment paper or a calligraphy set if they want to get really stylish. Just remember, no social application will ever render a heart-felt, hand-written thank-you note out of style. Would you be upset if your school stopped teaching writing to kids?