With today’s focus on technology, some educators and parents question the importance of teaching handwriting to young children. However, research suggests there is a strong connection between early, developmentally appropriate exposure to handwriting and future academic performance.
It’s easy to debate the relevance of teaching handwriting when children are using keyboards on tablets and computers, but writing letters by hand may be especially important for young children. Brain-scan research by Dr. Karin James of Indiana University suggests that writing by hand activates areas of the brain that may support reading development in young children. Producing letters by hand appears to help children internalize letter images.
Dr. Laura Dinehart, a researcher from Florida International University, focuses on variables that influence children’s school readiness and early academic outcome. “Research indicates that handwriting matters,” Dinehart wrote in a 2014 article published by Zaner-Bloser, Why Teaching Handwriting in the Early Childhood Classroom is Critical. “In K–12 students, handwriting has been linked to academic performance, the production of more complex compositions, and higher self-efficacy and self-concept.” Yet, some early childhood educators still hesitate to teach handwriting in their classrooms.
A 2013 Florida International University study of more than 3,000 preschoolers conducted by Dinehart and Dr. Louis Manfra found that fine motor skills, particularly fine motor writing, in preschool are important predictors of later academic achievement. The study suggests that the ability to imitate strokes; copy letters, numerals, and shapes; and draw objects in preschool is associated with reading and match achievement in Grade 2.
In the 2014 article, Dinehart asserts that examining how best to improve fine motor writing skills and handwriting readiness in the preschool years may be crucial to improving academic skills in the long term. With growing evidence supporting the importance of handwriting, she encourages teachers to incorporate fun, developmentally appropriate handwriting instruction into their young students’ daily routine.
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