When it comes to handwriting, school systems are shifting their focus towards less traditional forms of instruction, but it could be negatively impacting proficiency and memory standards because it has been discovered that handwriting boosts the brain. As psychologists and scientists begin to unravel the link between educational development and cognitive retention, and due to a lack of printing exercises, they are discovering many students are being left behind.
Children, which are accustomed to using computers, tablets, keyboards, and other intelligent electronic devices, are missing that familiar recognition component in their core curriculum. According to Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the College de France in Paris, writing encourages brain activity, and kids benefit from this automated exchange of information. In a sense, it makes learning much easier.
Another study in 2012, which was led by psychologist Karin James at Indiana University, also gave a similar finding. In the study, children, who had not yet learned to read or write, were instructed to reproduce letters or shapes from a series of index cards using blank paper, dots or a computer. During the exercise, only the children who chose free-hand exhibited the highest increase of brain activity, which was demonstrated in the left fusiform gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and the posterior parietal cortex.
In another study which followed children in grades two through five, psychologists compared cursive writing and typing on a keyboard. As the results filtered back in, they noticed each form of writing stimulated different brain patterns. The children, specifically the cursive handwriting group, showed a dramatic improvement in the amount of words used; the complexity of ideas expressed, increased reading and writing networks, and memory encoding.
Regardless of the exact type, handwriting, in general, strengthens the mind and has many long-term health benefits. As we help our children process information and learn new skills, it’s important to include writing exercises to help children better understand the process, reflection, and support healthy brain function.