Op-Ed

Children should learn to do more than click

Amid rapid technological advancements and an increasing number of students using laptops and tablets in the classroom, it is no surprise that some people are calling the relevance of handwriting into question. As our children begin the new school year, let’s arm them with all the resources they really need, including the power to write by hand.

When I open up a letter from my grandmother that I’ve saved, I still get tears in my eyes the instant I see her handwriting. Writing one’s ideas and seeing them reflected back in one’s own voice, style and self is exquisitely empowering, especially for the youngest writers.

In this era of technology, I want us to fight for our children’s right to write, in all modes, but especially by hand.

Writing is the most powerful innovation that we have as human beings that connects us with each other and with our own inner lives. A handwritten note to a dear friend, the homemade card from your toddler, the love letters your parents exchanged, the note you wrote to yourself in a notebook — all are forms of writing that connect each of us with our past, present and future, others and ourselves. Writing is a profound way that we tell and reflect upon the stories that compose our human experience.

While the digital age has brought us new technology and new ways of communicating, handwriting still can and should play a vital role in children’s lives and in all of our lives.

This is the first generation that could grow up without the influence of handwriting, an experiment in progress. But there are ways to keep handwriting close while still being open to the world of digital literacy. This generation deserves what handwriting has to offer.

Handwriting is a powerful tool for learning. The actual act of forming letters is instrumental in forming ideas and aiding memory, which is an important component of early-childhood development. The practice of writing helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression and may aid fine motor-skill development, as well. Additionally, writing helps children become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity.

According to the report, Handwriting in the 21st Century, handwriting has lifelong benefits. Without consistent exposure to handwriting, research indicates that students can experience difficulty in cognitive and motor processes required for success in reading and writing.

According to recent research, the percentage of the student population that is not proficient in handwriting could be as high as 33 percent, and 75 percent of American students in grades four through 12 were writing below grade level on a national writing exam.

Giving kids the opportunity to put nimble tools in their hands, to write wherever they are and wherever they go, to take notes and to jot thoughts, is a way to add minutes of writing to each and every day. Those minutes build stamina, fine motor and visual motor skills, all combined to create improved outcomes for writing and reading, too.

Handwriting is like a snowflake — everyone’s handwriting is distinct and different. Open the box of your mother’s love letters to your father, or your grandmother’s college letter to you, and immediately you are reminded of their essence. A box of childhood writing belonging to your college age daughter provokes that same kind of strong response. Beyond all the educational reasons for why handwriting still matters in this, the 21st century, is the fact that one’s own unique style is a fingerprint, a mark upon the world that belongs to that child, and no one else.

Pam Allyn is a literary expert and founder of LitWorld — a global organization advocating for children’s rights as readers, writers and learners.

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