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Our brains are wired for language, and learning to read and write are a crucial part of a child’s development.
But as we become more reliant on computers, mobile phones and iPads, some teachers are questioning the future of writing.
Many schools are reducing the amount of time they devote to teaching cursive, with some schools debating its value in the classroom.
However, scientists argue that the benefits in learning to write are too valuable to lose
Writing is an important skill for cognitive development.
“Handwriting engages widespread areas of both cerebral hemispheres,” says Professor William Klemm, Senior Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University.
Professor Klemm, who has spent his career researching cognitive development, says learning to write plays a crucial role in the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
But the full benefits of handwriting don’t just come from printing out block letters.
“Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brains become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing, as opposed to typing,” he says.
“Because cursive movements are continuously variable, they are more mentally demanding than making single strokes.”
Learning to write led to higher levels of brain activity than typing.
A 2013 study led by Dr Karin James of Indiana University found that children demonstrated adult-like brain activity after they learned to write letters
However, this didn’t happen when children attempted the same exercise by typing out certain letters, or even tracing them.
"There is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time," says Dr James.
The study also found that the processing of each letter involved in handwriting was important to build up the brain regions that are used in reading.
By engaging similar areas of the brain, learning to write made the process of reading much simpler.
While learning to write activates the brain and improves literacy, it may also stimulate your child’s creativity.
“Handwriting engages the mind,” says neuropsychologist Dr Virginia Berninger of the University of Washington. “The handwriting – the sequencing of the strokes – engages the thinking part of the mind and seems to help the brain with mental organization.”
One study found that primary school children who composed long-form pieces by hand wrote faster, and had more ideas than if they typed similar pieces on a computer keyboard.
So encouraging your children to write won’t just help them organise their thoughts – it also means they’ll process more of them!