Thursday, May 9, 2013

Keeping Cursive Alive

PediaStaff recently contacted me and asked me to write an opinion piece on cursive handwriting in response to this article in the New York Times. I was happy to do so! 

Keeping Cursive Alive
When my 12-year-old daughter left for summer camp, I slipped some stationary into her suitcase and asked her to write me while she was away.  I checked the mailbox regularly, looking forward to a letter, but to my dismay, she never wrote. Once she was home, I asked her why she never wrote.

“It takes too long to write a letter. If I’d had my laptop, I could have just typed you a letter, but I don’t like to write,” she declared.

I was surprised and a little sad. I have wonderful childhood memories of corresponding with my pen pal, Lori, who lived in Hawaii, and writing letters to my parents when I was at summer camp was a fun experience. I always added a P.S. at the end of every note, and I loved sealing the envelope and adding a stamp. Are those days really gone?

Unfortunately, they may be. The new Common Core Standards require legible handwriting in Kindergarten and grade 1, but they do not include cursive handwriting. However, the standards do state that by the end of Fourth Grade, students must demonstrate the keyboarding skills necessary to complete a one-page writing assignment.

As an OT, I am very much “pro-cursive.” Why? Writing in cursive has a number of benefits.

·      Writing in cursive develops visual motor and manipulative skills, which are important for daily living skills, recreation, and work.

·      Research suggests that students who write in cursive efficiently have better academic skills, including reading comprehension.

·      One must be able to read cursive handwriting in order to read historical documents written in cursive.

·      Research reveals that students who write in cursive receive better grades than those who print.

·      Requiring keyboarding at young ages can be a detriment because if the child’s hands are too small for the keyboard, they will develop a habit of “hunting and pecking,” which can be difficult to break.

·      Too much time in front of a computer screen can lead to eyestrain, discomfort, and headaches.

·      A cursive signature is important for preventing forgery and necessary when signing legal documents.

Important Points

·      Regular practice and reinforcement are necessary when learning print, write in cursive, AND keyboard correctly and efficiently.

·      Just like cursive handwriting, keyboarding is an important skill. It allows for ease in editing, guarantees legibility, and is an ideal tool for children who have dysgraphia. Students should be skilled with handwriting skills AND keyboarding skills.

It is my hope that school systems continue to include cursive instruction in their curriculum, despite the fact that cursive is not included in the Common Core Standards.

To hear more thoughts on cursive in this era of technology, check out PediaStaff's blog post with links to other articles written by occupational therapists in response to the NYT Article! 
 Photo Credit: Microsoft Office


  1. As a handwriting specialist, and not an OT, I question several aspects of the method commonly known as “cursive;” there have been many diverse cursives since our Roman alphabet came into existence.

    I question superior speed. I am familiar with the writings of Steve Graham, and have not known of his endorsement of cursive for its speed.
    The research to which you refer does not specify “cursive.” Significant research has been done, but the method of writing was not the issue. In fact, much of it has been with young children using some form of print-script.
    My item #2 relates to your statement that students get better grades with cursive than with print.
    4) Well, no, my signature is just fine. It is my variation of italic.

  2. Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. Why not teach children to read cursive, along with teaching other vital skills, including a handwriting style typical of effective handwriters?

    Adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May - June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September - October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest

  3. Decent arguments/points up until the stovepipe hats...that's a very poor analogy.