Does Writing Cursive Make Better Readers?
Cursive isn’t taught in many of our schools today. You would be hard-pressed to find good examples of cursive in everyday writing. We can text, email, and Facebook our little hearts away and never even touch paper and pen. So, how important is penmanship in the ability to learn and read anyway?
Neurologists are just beginning to use brain-imaging studies to find out what happens in a child’s brain during the process of becoming literate. It turns out that the quality of the brain’s white matter — the tissue that carries signals between areas of gray matter — improves substantially when children learn to read — a process that typically occurs side by side with learning to write. [See, for example, First evidence of brain rewiring in children: reading remediation positively alters brain tissue] Science Daily, Dec. 10, 2009.
When children learn to write in cursive, other things happen in the brain. The translation of the sequences of symbols (letters) into lines on paper affects the cognitive ability of the brain — it presents the brain with a challenge because each letter connects slightly different to every other letter each time that it is written. Neuroscientists say that as children learn to write cursive, they become better speakers and readers.
Learning to write cursive is an important component that we may have overlooked in the race to get technology in the classroom. Proponents of keeping cursive in the class say that it’s a necessary tool for students that can help them learn how to read and communicate more quickly and efficiently.