National Handwriting Day: The Case for Cursive!

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January 23rd is National Handwriting Day and it is time to break out your cursive and celebrate! The day, first established in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturer’s Association, falls on John Hancock’s birthday, which is apropos. The founding father was known for his flourish when it came to putting pen to paper. His signature on the Declaration of Independence is a study in penmanship. But it turns out that the flourish cursive that Hancock used when signing his name may just be fading away. Or is it?

According to the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation and their report “The Truth About Cursive Handwriting: Why it Matters in a Digital Age,” as of May 2016, only 15 states required the teaching of cursive writing in their Core Curriculum Standards. But after a generation of students no longer learning to write in cursive, many proponents of the technique are not waiting for schools to bring it back. They are doing it for themselves.

According to a 2018 Washington Post article, children are being introduced to cursive again through summer camps. Karen Heller reported that Brigid Guertin, executive director of the Danbury Museum & Historical Society “struggled to find interns capable of deciphering the sepia-tinted documents of their city’s handwritten past.” According to Guertin, “The majority of our assets are in cursive and not transcribed.” So Guertin launched Cursive Camp in 2015.

And like Hancock’s signature, camps, programs and organizations devoted to bringing back cursive are flourishing. Here are just a few:

  • Write Beginnings offers a Handwriting Camp every summer in Washington, D.C. The organization uses the Handwriting Without Tears program. In three weekly sessions this summer, campers will spend 2 ½ hours each day “working on theme-based letter formations in a fun and creative thinking way that helps them forget that they are actually learning.”
  • In Dallas, The Handwriting Clinic offers school-year and summer camps for handwriting using the First Strokes Handwriting Program. A typical class includes traditional work in workbooks but also fun exercises such as writing in such odd mediums such as paint and shaving creams.
  • The Penmanship Lab, founded by occupational therapist Leslie Catlett in 2017 and located in Columbus, Ohio, offers year-round camps for handwriting. They even offer a class designed for 4 to 6 year-olds called Squiggles and Giggles that emphasizes “fine motor skills for pre-writing, grasp, introduction to upper case letters, writing name, motor and perceptual skills, and two hand use through a variety of play-based sensory activities and games.”

It must be working. As recently as 2017, The House of Representatives submitted resolution H. RES. 654 that expressed support for National Handwriting Day to recognize “the importance of handwriting for cognitive, artistic, and educational benefit.” Citing that handwriting “has been shown to increase neural development and engage areas of the brain associated with language, memory, word recognition, and emotion.”

So rather than fading away, it appears cursive is making a comeback. And in honor of National Handwriting Day, lets follow suit. Take out a pen and paper and get creative with cursive, from curlicues to calligraphy. Let’s start writing!

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