Growing Bookworms: Handwriting skills for children, Part 1

Why handwriting is still important

As technology becomes increasingly important in our modern lives, writing by hand with a pen has become less common. Writing on a computer is easy and allows us to move text about, delete and add text, and save sections in a separate place for future use. We are also able to access our writing from a number of devices. I access my email and blogs from all three of my laptops, both of my iphones, and my ipad. This all makes writing so much simpler, so why do our education systems still focus on handwriting? Why not let the children use laptops and ipads to write?

Cognitive benefits

Writing notes by hand improves language skills. Writing by hand takes longer than typing and forces the writer to slow down their thought process and consider the words more. When you write by hand you spend more time thinking about the structure of the writing, the spelling of words, and they way you are using them.

Writing information down also aids our memory. I knew this without consulting the research confirming that writing creates unique pathways in the brain causing people who take notes by hand to remember the content better than those who type up their notes. Like me, my oldest son, Gregory, came to this realisation on his own and writes copious and detailed notes. His effort and dedication reflects in his academic results.

Creative writing benefits

A lot of writers still use notebooks to record and flesh out their ideas by hand. When we write longhand our ideas flow better and we are less distracted by the need to keep editing our work as we go along. When we write by hand we follow the flow of the idea and leave the editing until later.

I write most of my poetry by hand, but I do type up my prose so I know the above is true. I just can’t stop myself from continuously editing.

My son, Michael, writes by hand. He has a book in which he writes down his thoughts and ideas when the spirit moves him. When it comes to school assignments, he writes his stories on a laptop and I am always amazed at how many more mistakes and errors he makes when using a laptop than when writing by hand.

The manuscript of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Picture credit: https://www.spbooks.com/67-the-great-gatsby-9791095457428.html

Handwriting is less restrictive

This point links to the one above about writing by hand freeing our minds and creative processes from the need to edit. I don’t write my prose by hand but I do record my frameworks and basic ideas by hand. I like to use mind maps which set out my story process. I have noticed that Michael does the same when plotting.

Again, I must emphasis that using and electronic devise to brainstorm is fraught with distractions. These are our own fault as we have our social media, email, and other notifications coming through on our devices. Every time I get an email or notification from Facebook, it pops up on my screen and my eyes automatically go to the pop up and read it.

Handwriting is part of our identity and our culture

Our handwriting is unique to us and forms a part of our identity. Even people like me whose writing is difficult for others to read, still put our personal stamp on handwritten work (my writing is difficult to read because I cannot resist adding curls and whirls all over the place; my writing is a work of art).

Writing is also an important part of our culture and our development as a species, it is the foundation of our learning and progress.

If you are interested in learning a bit more about the role of handwriting in our lives and culture, Rebecca Budd has a lovely podcast entitled The Trio on Letter Writing which discusses this topic in detail.

Quotes about writing

I think of my drawing style like handwriting: it’s a mix of whatever handwriting you’re born with, plus bits and pieces you’ve pilfered from other people around you. – Roz Chast

Poets don’t draw. They unravel their handwriting and then tie it up again, but differently. – Jean Cocteau

Somehow I started introducing writing into my drawings, and after a time, the language took over and I started getting very involved with the handwriting and then the look of the handwriting. – Patti Smith

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Robbie Cheadle is a children’s author and poet.

The Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie writes a monthly series for https://writingtoberead.com called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/ where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

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101 Comments on “Growing Bookworms: Handwriting skills for children, Part 1”

  1. They say if you forget your shopping list it doesn’t matter as the act of writing it makes you remember. No doubt lots of people write their shopping list on their phone – I don’t. In the kitchen a pad of recycled paper is much easier for jotting down when your hands are messy. English children are taught cursive writing and it looks good.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hi Janet, thank you for your lovely comment. I definitely have to write things down when I study. I tried making notes on my laptop but it didn’t work well for me as a study technique. Mind maps and handwritten notes were the way I always went. I also do make a shopping list and I never remember to take it with me [smile].

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Robbie's inspiration and commented:

    Today, my Raising Bookworms post focuses on handwriting and why it is important for our children to learn how to write and also for us as adults. Thank you to Kaye Lynne Booth for hosting me today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Always a pleasure, Robbie. 🙂

      This is a wonderful post and you make valid points. I think in some places they have stopped teaching handwriting and even lightened up on math skills due to the digitization of learning. Kids are allowed to use their devices in class, so there is less need for math and writing skills to be learned. Smart devices, like Alexa, make our research skills seem irrelevant, as well. I think that is just sad. These skills are so important, for all the reasons you have listed above. If we don’t teach these skills, we may be raising a generation of lazy adults who lack the knowledge to function without the technology we’ve come to rely on so heavily.

      Like

      • I am sad to hear this, Kaye. I think basic reading, writing and maths skills are vital life skills. My sons school still focus heavily on these things and they only allow computers and iPhones in the high school. All examinations are hand written and calculators are allowed but only basic ones.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. beetleypete says:

    Although I type out all my fiction, I have numerous notebooks to write down ideas, character names, dates and timelines. I go back and refer to those as the work progresses, and would be lost without them. But I do fear writing as we know it will one day disappear completely, Robbie.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jwebster2 says:

    I agree that writing something helps ‘fix it’
    The problem is that as somebody who is left handed and was taught to write using a dip pen, my handwriting is so bad it’s my only qualification to practice medicine.
    I once did an hour’s calligraphy class and at the end of it my work was worse than when I started 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  6. joylennick says:

    Thank you for a great blog, Robbie! It’s a funny thing that, when asked why I wrote or what triggered my love of writing, I immediately thought of all the magical books I read as a child, and still do…BUT.when I thought on further, it was really to emulate my father’s beautiful calligraphy hand. He was a passionate ‘hobby-man.’ from gardening to stamp-collecting; letter writing to model aeroplane-making and several other pastimes. I recall being over the moon to receive my Pitman’s Hand-writing certificate…I also did a day’s concentrated course in Calligraphy, but was never as good as Pop!.The love of putting words on paper has never left me, and while much is ‘saved’ on line, I have countless note-books to prove it. and nine published books. The tenth, hopefully, about to see the light of day. The best of luck in all your many endeavours, clever girl!! Hugs xx .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Joy, I feel like I know your family, having read your memoir. Your father was very accomplished and you were a lucky girl to have him. I have never written beautifully but I can manage. No one can read my handwriting. I have recently finished you lovely book of short stories, Where Angels & Devils Tread. It was great and I’ll write my review this weekend 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  7. marianbeaman says:

    I agree with the premise here–definitely!

    And I’ll go a little farther. While printing is fine, I see benefits in teaching & learning cursive as well.

    When my grandchildren were born, I wrote them letters which they would read at age 13. The older two got handwritten missives in cursives. My grandsons struggled to read the lines, exposed almost exclusively to computer-generated material in school. My son used to teach cursive in his art classes, but now he is at a different school teaching photography, so maybe cursive handwriting is a dying art, at least in our neck of the woods.

    Thanks, Kaye, for hosting Robbie! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and jumping in on the conversation, Marian. Great to see you here. 🙂

      Unfortunately, I think you may be right about cursive being a dying art. When I was growing up, it wasn’t an art, it was a necessary skill. Not all changes brought on by the rise of technology are good ones.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robbie Cheadle says:

      Hi Marian, my oldest son was taught to write cursive and it was compulsory for him at school until high school. He switched to print in high school. Michael was only taught print but he attended a remedial school and the focus was different. I learned to write in cursive and, sadly, my cursive is even more illegible than my print. I am glad I have these skills though.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. edwardky2 says:

    Reblogged this on Ed;s Site..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. After years of using a keyboard I struggle to handwrite even birthday cards. I used to make copious notes for future use then could not read them back! I am improving as I handwrite my poetry but I do have to think carefully as I do so.. Like Pete I do wonder if the art of writing will eventually disappear as the younger generation rely on the digital options.. Terrific post Robbie as always..

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Norah says:

    Great post as always, and well-researched, Robbie. I agree that it is still important for children to learn to handwrite, and to progress from print to cursive, as Marian said. Initially handwriting is very tied to fine motor skills and drawing. Joy mentioned calligraphy and the handwriting of adults, and I enjoyed these too. We had copybooks at school and lettering was always important. That’s gone by the wayside now. And though, like Sally, I rarely handwrite anything other than shopping lists and notes on greeting cards, I am grateful that I am able to do so. It took me years to move from handwriting first drafts to typing them on the computer, but now my brain engages when my fingers are on the keyboard. Sometimes I may (foolishly) start drafting or planning by hand then give up, realising I’ll do a much better job on the computer. I’m not convinced my memory is affected either way. It was never brilliant for recall of ‘facts’.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Norah, I think your point about developing fine motor schools is an important one. So many children already have a lack of good gross motor skills from sitting about in front of the TV and computer and not exercising and strengthening their muscles. I sometimes wonder if people are going to end up like the Martians in War of the Worlds with great big heads and tiny underdeveloped bodies. They relied on machines for everything outside of academic and thinking tasks. It makes me shudder.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Norah says:

        It is a frightening thought, isn’t it? I won’t be here to see, but it could be interesting to see where evolution takes us.

        Like

        • My concern, Norah, is that many modern innovations reduce creativity in people. TV and movies instead of books and radio takes away the imaginary part of a story, sitting in rows in open plan offices with hot seats takes away privacy and personal space, typing instead of handwriting also take away a lot of the thinking aspects and makes communication brief, to the point, and impersonal.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Norah says:

          Those are good points, Robbie. But I still think there is a lot of creativity in the world. There have been so many advances in my lifetime. They all require creativity and thinking outside the box – crazy ones, as described by Steve Jobs.
          But what you have described is exactly why I advocate for education rather than schooling.

          Liked by 2 people

  11. Staci Troilo says:

    I always start my outlines with paper and pen or pencil. I feel the ideas flow most freely that way. I thought it was just me or my method, but your post has me thinking there’s more to it. Interesting stuff, Robbie.

    Thanks to both of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Dan Antion says:

    My handwriting is of the best quality, but I still jot down a lot of notes on paper. I love adding thoughts and emphasis that you simply can’t recreate on a digital device.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Susan Scott says:

    Yes to handwriting and al the benefits mentioned Robbie. Plus, I like my handwriting (even if sometimes I can’t make it out when eg I’ve jotted down a thought, idea, quote).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Susan, I have been known to have the same problem with reading my scribbles. Sadly, I don’t like my handwritten which no-one else can read, but I am still glad I can write, even if I’m the only one who can read it. Thanks for visiting.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Teri Polen says:

    For ideas I get on the go, I put them in notes on my phone. Like Staci, when it comes time to start planning and outlining, I write it in a notebook. It’s easier to plan and my brain seems to like the format better, lol. But no one can read my handwriting. Some days I struggle with it myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Good summary, Robbie. Lots of teachers agree. I do agree but see similar benefits to keyboarding that handwriting can’t provide. For example, handwriting speed tops out for many at about 35 wpm, slower than our thoughts move through our brain. That means what we write can’t keep up with our thoughts. But keyboarding can. I like a balance of the two!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. olganm says:

    Great post, Robbie. My handwriting was never too good (although I did practise calligraphy at home for a while, but never anything too fancy) and being a doctor gave me the right to continue being awful. I used to write a lot of notes for work, as we didn’t always have access to a computer when we interviewed patients, and I would use a Dictaphone at times to dictate reports, but I enjoy typing, as long as the keyboard suits me (I do use a separate keyboard). I agree with your comments about making you think more. I can type faster than I think, sometimes, and I end up with some bizarre content, but I think it is a skill that we should all learn and maintain, and I do hope it never dies out (although it might).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am rather saddened that so many readers of this post think writing could die out. That is not on the agenda here in South Africa yet, but if the USA and UK go that route, we will follow. The kids write so badly on ipads and iphones and don’t use any punctuation at all. I think it will be a blow to clear communication if writing and punctuation are not taught at schools.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have to agree, Robbie. It would be a sad, sad thing, but I fear it could happen. I just watched a program on television where the young people, mellinials, admitted that they were unable to read cursive because they had not been taught to read or write in cursive. I suppose they are still teaching printing, but if no one is using pen and paper anymore, what would be the point?

        Like

  17. I truly believe that one of my most formative experiences growing up, was learning to write, both printing, and in cursive. As my education moved forward, I had teachers who insisted on good penmanship! It really does make a difference in our lives, to perfect handwriting skills and I am convinced we will reach a tipping point when things will revert to handwriting will be back on top again. In the same fashion that even though we have ebooks, we still have a need and a desire for printed books.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I do so hope that you are correct, Annette. I would hate to see handwriting disappear. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Annette, lovely to see you. I am encouraged by your words. I also think that writing is very important, as is reading. Basic skills are needed before we more on to higher levels of learning. I spend a lot of time explaining to various teenagers that without reading and writing there would be no movies, TV shows, or complex computer games. All of these are scripted by screen writers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alas, screenwriters are now digitalized, as well, and really they have been for a long time. Unless you are Quintin Tarentino, screenplays and scripts are not handwritten. They used to type them out, which was a tedious task because each type of instruction has specific placement on the page, but now there are several good screenwriting apps, that make placing everything properly with little effort. However, I will say, there is still need to carry out the planning processes by hand, and many screenwriters are familiar with the use of whiteboards, where ideas can easily be laid out and rearranged, making collaboration more convenient.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Darlene says:

    I used to have wonderful handwriting but I found I couldn’t write as fast as my ideas came so it got messier and messier. I would dutifully write my in-laws in the UK a letter full of our news once a month. Then when computers came along I typed up my letters and sent them off to my in-laws in the UK. They replied how happy they were as now they could actually read my letters. Sigh. I still scribble parts of my WIP by hand. Only I can read the notes but I agree, the creative juices flow best from mind to pen. A great article.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Darlene, I also make limited use of the pen, but my poems all start their lives in a handwritten form and I also jot down ideas all the time. I always have a notepad and pen to hand. Fortunately, my sons have followed my example and they both write and read as much as can reasonably expected for their age group.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Great valuable information and ideas here, Robbie. I encourage my (adult) writing students to write their stories in a notebook, NOT on the computer. The computer can be for their second draft, but writing in longhand DOES help the flow from brain to pen. I agree! Now, if only my cursive could be less sloppy…..

    Liked by 2 people

    • I never write in cursive, Pam. Even I can’t read my cursive. I sometimes write ideas out in longhand but not often for prose. I do write poetry by hand, usually on the side of the road when inspiration hits. I am glad your experience is pro handwriting, Pam.

      Like

  20. Leon Stevens says:

    I agree that physically writing something down is more connected cognitively. You do have to concentrate more on what you are committing to the page. You can’t rely on outside tools to check you spelling and grammar, so what you want to write gets planned out better.

    Handwriting is individual. You can teach student how to form the letters, but no two will be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Carla says:

    Lots of great ideas and thoughts in this post Robbie. I agree, when I studied, I wrote notes, drew arrows, made points etc. It helped me to remember. It is important that we still teach or at least encourage handwriting, but who knows what the future will bring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carla, writing was certainly a big part of my studying process. My sons school asks them to either make study notes or draw mind maps. The boys hand write a lot of their assignments and all their tests and exams.your point about the future is well made.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. This was a very interesting discussion. When I was in college, the professors taught exclusively with lecture, so I took notes to learn the material, and when I studied for exams, I rewrote my notes to capture the most important points. Now, lecture has largely fallen from favor in education, along with handwriting.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. TheIndianBookLounge says:

    You’ve covered quite a lot in part 1. Looking forward to what handwriting skills will be presented in part 2. I’m reminded of examples from English classic novels where excellent penmanship reflected social standing and education.

    Like

    • Yes, what you say is true. Educational opportunities were so limited and expensive. It is amazing that so many kids don’t appreciate their educational opportunities when their ancestors fought so hard for them. It just shows you that there is some truth in the statement that something that is given for free is seldom appreciated.

      Like

      • TheIndianBookLounge says:

        I agree. There’s a lot of work that goes into handwriting. The process itself is a lot of work which actually strengthens resilience and the willingness to work hard.

        Liked by 1 person

  24. petespringerauthor says:

    I’m going to agree with the idea of keeping active writing as part of the process. I taught third grade for many years when children are just learning to write in cursive. There’s no doubt that using technology is important too, but both are important. Younger children can write much faster than they can type. Many children in the primary grades are still weak in keyboarding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pete, there are many benefits to learning to write. It is the first step in the learning process and encourages the development of fine motor skills. It also gives us independence from digital devices and that is good and necessary. I believe that both are necessary in our modern world.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. floridaborne says:

    I do like the idea of teaching children for the same reason I taught my children how to use a stick shift: You never know when you’ll need to use that skill.

    Writing is a very painful process, for I will jumble up the letters if I don’t think about each one separately. Ergo, I put too much effort into getting each letter in the right place. With typing, I can take a jumble of letters on a keyboard and turn them into a sentence in less than 15 seconds.

    Like

  26. memadtwo says:

    You reminded my of my older daughter and her study index cards! They worked.

    I always write by hand first, but I find the computer useful for editing. It gives me a different point of view. Besides being useful in a cognitive way ,, our handwriting is definitely a reflection of who we are, and should always be encouraged. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kerfe, thank you for adding your thoughts. I certainly would not write my novels by hand now, they are just to long at approximately 100 000 words. I do still write by hand though, poetry, notes, and often forms and applications. I think South Africa is a bit behind the USA in this regard.

      Liked by 2 people

  27. […] Head over to discover more about how handwriting benefits children: Growing Bookworms: Handwriting skills for children, Part 1 […]

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Jim Borden says:

    thanks for the informative post; I would agree with you that there are a lot of benefits from writing by hand, and I have seen the research to support it. It’s a shame that many schools have stopped teaching cursive writing, and seem to want to get kids on laptops as soon as possible.

    One of my pet peeves with writing by hand is when people sign their name and it is completely illegible, just a couple of swirls of the pen and they are done…

    Liked by 2 people

  29. dgkaye says:

    Fantastic article Robbie. As many know, I write all my books in longhand before the story gets into the computer as round 1 revisions. All the reasons you mentioned are why I write in longhand – the pen flows and I don’t stop myself to backtrack. 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

  30. alexcraigie says:

    I’m with many of you on this in that I do the mapping and outlining by hand but the actual writing on computer. I know where I’m going when I start on the keyboard and it’s easy to amend things as I go (and later on) so that there’s no crossings-out or squeezed in voacabulary to stop the flow when I read things back.
    I saw a quiz last week and one of the sets of questions involved one in a pair answering the question and the other spelling the answer. The younger adults couldn’t manage the spelling part. One of them pointed out that they don’t need to because of auto correct… I was taught italic writing at school with a dip pen and loved the shape of the words on paper. My father was a doctor, like Jim, and I think I was one of the few people apart from pharmacists who could interpret his writing. Four weeks ago I decided my hand writing was beginning to resemble his, so I unearthed my trusty fountain pen and have gone back to using that. The difference already is remarkable.
    I’d like to think that handwriting will continue – the benefits you mention are undeniable, but, like processed food, sometimes the easy option is more appealing. Great post, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Alex for your lovely comment and for joining in the conversation. My concern about people not learning to write would be what happens if our computerised world ever collapses or goes off line for a period. There is a lot of digital crime and the possibility of cyber warfare exists. How would our kids operate if they can’t write and there is no digital option. They think it could never happen, but we know that it could. The unexpected often happens in life. In South Africa, we have on-going power outages and during these times, many businesses have to operate manually.

      Liked by 2 people

  31. I can agree with that. Thanks for bringing this up, Robbie! I also had the experience, that from the time I was able to play the piano, it was possible to transfer some of the memory skills of handwriting to typing. xx Michael

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Michael, how lovely that you play the piano. My Michael also learned piano for a while and now he plays the drums. It is probably easier to learn to type if you can already write by hand. Have a wonderful weekend.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for the great article, Robbie! Very important thought, one not always has active in mind. Great! Playing piano is fun, if one has more discipline like me. 😉 In the very past i had a period with a few hours per day of exercises. Than you can really enjoy. Playing drums is also wonderful, and more for this time, and songs much more people having in mind. Wish him great success! I need to go back to more handwriting. Lets see, what will happen. 😉 Have a beautiful weekend, Robbie! xx Michael

        Liked by 2 people


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