With new Common Core Standards, training in cursive has been discontinued from the public school system. This, in our opinion, constitutes a great loss to students. Cursive is fast, efficient, not as tiring to the hand as print, promotes a meditative flow while writing, and has great beauty.
Cursive Encourages Integrative Thinking
While keyboarding is essential in modern society, the fine motor development associated with longhand writing has benefits for developing brains that do not occur with typing. In a Psychology Today article titled "Science of the Spirit," William R. Klemm D.V.M., Ph.D notes that brain imaging shows that key areas of the brain including sensation, movement control, and thinking, are integrated from cursive practice (Psychology Today March 14, 2013).
In the blog "The School of Dyslexia," Vice Principal of Heritage Academy Derek Rhodenizer also points out that cursive writing has been identified as promoting the use of more regions of the brain than print, and that typing or block printing keeps the generation of letters separate, with less connective thinking involved.
Cursive is Artistic
In addition to any potential losses in brain development or connective thinking, we realized with a wistful sense of sadness that without practice in cursive, most children will sign their checks, any books or works of art they produce, and their marriage license, in print. Cursive may be maligned as "old-fashioned," but like ancient art or antique furniture, there is a beauty, richness, and a "feel" that can't be approximated with mass production.
Cursive Helps Some Dyslexics
In our home, there is an even greater primacy for cursive: the learning of cursive eliminates flipping of b, d, p, and q for many dyslexics. It turns out that cursive is taught to dyslexics in multiple countries for this reason. We were excited to learn that the British Dyslexia Association recommends cursive as the only style of handwriting a child learns. This is how handwriting is approached in Montessori schooling, and children begin learning cursive when they are 2.5 years old. When our son transferred into a Montessori school and learned cursive in the second half of kindergarten, We watched the change with amazement: he could suddenly write without flipping letters. We were soon challenged with the fact he could write without flipping, but when he read in print, he continued to mistake b, d, p, and q. That's when we realized it was time to help him out by printing books in cursive.
As his experience increased and his confidence grew, Bain now reads standard print books with greater ease. In the meantime, facilitating his success in every way has been paramount. Bain became so enthused about Books in Cursive that we made him a full partner in the endeavor to create this series.
Historical Documents are in Cursive
For children who are not struggling with letter flipping, there is still a significant benefit to reading books in cursive. Quite simply, exposure to cursive enhances familiarity with and comprehension of cursive penmanship. Many people across the United States and in other countries write primarily in cursive.
When a young friend of our son was visiting and glanced at a draft of Many Pennies and asked, "What's that kind of writing?" the issue was highlighted. Though this child was reading at an advanced level, his parents wrote grocery lists and notes to each other on handheld devices rather than with pen and paper and so he had never seen cursive before. With a little practice, he could read our cursive text with ease.
In our home state of Maryland inside the State Building, a draft of George Washington’s resignation from the army is on display. In addition to being captivated by the content, our family gazed for some time in awe at Washington’s exquisite cursive penmanship. In a voice of wonder Bridget remarked, “People just don’t write like that anymore.” The experience was akin to beholding and savoring a famous work of art. With exposure to cursive, if one day your child wants to read the original Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Washington’s letter, or even a handwritten note from Granny, they'll be in good shape.
The Engaged Reader Books in Cursive "Read & Do" Series books do not teach cursive writing and it is not necessary to learn cursive writing to read these books. There is however a benefit to learning cursive writing and reading simultaneously as each skill reinforces the other. For young readers who are interested in learning cursive, there are many resources online and in your community. There are free worksheets that can be printed out for practice, and even YouTube instructional videos demonstrating the formation of each letter. There are tutors and even grandparents or retirees with time to volunteer who would be thrilled to help pass the art of cursive on to the next generation.
In addition to the Montessori "sandpaper letters in cursive" that our son used for tactile practice of cursive letters in school, we had him shape the entire lowercase cursive alphabet in clay, and then paint his masterpiece. Kinesthetic engagement aids in learning.
If a child has already mastered the alphabet in print and is ready to tackle writing in cursive, start by explaining that cursive is a lot like print only you never take your pen off the paper. Have them make a series of connected loops. Once they realize they can make short loops, tall loops, and curvy loops like waves in the ocean, have them playfully experiment with whether they can make a curvy letter like "c" or an "l" or a "p" or a bump letter like “n” or “m” in the line of loops. Begin with the more easily converted letters first and ask, "How might you make a 'g' in the line of loops?" Let their personality express itself in the crafting of the letters! By introducing cursive through a process of playful discovery rather than rote memorization, the child is engaged from the outset.
The earlier a child starts cursive, the better. There are many educators who believe children should learn cursive first, long before print.