by Sheila Lowe, MS, CFDe
Every January 23rd, National Handwriting Day is celebrated by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA), educators, and handwriting analysts throughout the United States and the world. Beginning in the early 1980s, the date was chosen by WIMA because it is generally accepted as the birthday of John Hancock—Remember the Founding Father whose big, bold signature graces the bottom of the Declaration of Independence? Although the story may be apocryphal, rumor has it that Hancock wrote it that way so Mad King George could see his signature without the aid of his spectacles (glasses).
Today, many young adults are unable to read Hancock’s signature or the Declaration of Independence because they were never taught to read cursive (joined-up) writing. Grandparents are often shocked to learn that since 2009, when the Common Core Curriculum was produced, the requirement to teach cursive handwriting in public schools was left out. Consequently, many states simply stopped teaching it. After a few years of seeing the negative aftermath of this omission, the states began to add cursive back. To date, twenty-five of them have returned the requirement to the curriculum and five more have legislation pending. Some leave the decision up to the school districts, and only ten states have absolutely no requirement to teach cursive. California simply requires children to learn to write legibly. However, prior to the onset of the pandemic, the LA Unified School District had a plan to re-introduce cursive to public schools. Hopefully, VUSD will soon see why it should follow suit.
Maybe you’re thinking ‘what’s the big deal? Why bother when everyone uses keyboards these days?’ It would take a much longer article to answer that question, and if you are interested, you are invited to download a free white paper on the current research into why handwriting is still important in a cursive age. It is available in seven languages here: http://ahafhandwriting.org/publications
Bottom line, research confirms that children who learn cursive, do better in spelling and reading, and they retain information better than those who just learn printed writing or keyboarding. Handwriting also helps the young brain develop self-discipline, combatting the effects of video games and TV.
One Ventura school teacher has a strong belief in the benefits of learning cursive. Laurie Curtis Abbe, who teaches 8th grade at Anacapa Middle School, makes sure that by the end of the school year, every student who entered her classroom will know how to write in legible cursive handwriting and be able to sign their name. Laurie is also an exceptional role model, preparing her students for real life by teaching them good manners and other skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. As Laurie says, “all of them know that it will improve their brain’s abilities, help them in reading primary source documents for Language Arts 8 and U.S. History 8, and give them an advantage over their peers for their future in many other ways.”
What can you do to participate in National Handwriting Day? You might want to make a “pencil toast.” Join with the non-profit educational organization, the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation on their Campaign for Cursive Facebook page. It’s easy. On January 23, write a few words and your autograph on a post-it note or other piece of paper; take a photo and post it here: https://www.facebook.com/CampaignForCursive
Below is my pencil toast: