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Why teaching your kids to write (not just type) is important

New research suggests that we shouldn't relegate handwriting to the dustbin just yet.


Parents love to worry about kids and typing for all sorts of reasons. First, the way texting seems to be transforming civil discourse. Then, of course, there are the fears around sexting, and texting while driving.

It's no wonder texting is a source of family strife. According to a Pew Research Center report last year, 64 per cent of parents look at the contents of their child's cellphone and 62 per cent have taken away their kid's phone as punishment. With fully 72 per cent of teens text-messaging, that's a lot of potential conflict.

But what if texting - or even typing done at a computer - has yet another downside? New research suggests that we shouldn't relegate handwriting to the dustbin just yet.

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As a piece in the Los Angeles Times reports, "The benefits of gripping and moving a pen or pencil reach beyond communication. Emerging research shows that handwriting increases brain activity, hones fine motor skills, and can predict a child's academic success in ways that keyboarding can't."

In the piece, Karin Harman James, an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, explains how neuroimaging has helped researchers discover that "handwriting can change how children learn and their brains develop."

The article states: "IU researchers used neuroimaging scans to measure brain activation in preliterate preschool children who were shown letters. One group of children then practised printing letters; the other children practised seeing and saying the letters. After four weeks of training, the kids who practised writing showed brain activation similar to an adult's, said Dr. James, the study's lead researcher. The printing practice also improved letter recognition, which is the No. 1 predictor of reading ability at age 5."

But all is not lost. The article also suggests that kids in the smart-phone generation - who have already mastered the "finger slide" as toddlers - may be exposed to nouveau handwriting lessons.

"Handwriting applications that allow users to hand-scribble notes on the touch screen rather than paper may be useful tools. Researchers are also working on software to help improve handwriting," reporter Julie Deardorff writes.

Are kids today losing out by not learning proper handwriting skills? Have you stumbled upon an old letter by a grandparent and wondered what the heck happened to penmanship?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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