Why Writing By Hand Matters for Kids

January 23rd, 2016 marks the 39th anniversary of National Handwriting Day.  Established in 1977 on the birthday of perhaps one of America’s most celebrated scribes, John Hancock­—known for his bold signature on the Declaration of Independence—National Handwriting Day was created to acknowledge the history and importance of penmanship in all of our lives.

Believe it or not, handwriting actually makes us smarter! Research has shown that writing by hand benefits cognitive development and motor skills, and can lead to improved writing skills and comprehension. University of Washington Psychologist Virginia Berninger concluded in a study on school-aged children that handwriting—both printing and cursive—and typing on a keyboard activated different brain patterns. Children who wrote by hand generated more ideas faster than those typing and also exhibited better working memory, which increased overall reading and writing abilities. Just some of the reasons we should be alarmed that 75 percent of kids in grades 4 through 12 write below grade level.

The art of handwriting is also one of the few ways individuals can uniquely express themselves. Developing this skill in children has shown to influence reading, writing, language, creativity, and critical thinking. Handwriting adds intimacy to anything written, whether it’s a letter, a card, or a simple note, and reveals details about the writer’s personality. As a result, many of us choose to save handwritten cards and letters as reminders of loved ones. "As technology grows and certainly plays an important role in our lives, nothing will ever replace the sincerity and individualism expressed through the handwritten word," says David H. Baker, executive director of the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association.

To reinforce the importance of handwriting with children, try some of these fun and easy activities:

1. Research important written documents. Throughout history, handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace, freed slaves, created movements, and declared independence. A quick online search will yield some surprising and inspiring results!

2. Read a book. It may not be writing, but this activity fosters a lifelong appreciation of writing. Some of the most noted authors prefer pen and paper to computers to create their novels, including J.K. Rowling, who drafted her famous Harry Potter series on (a lot of!) napkins.

3. Practice 15 minutes of handwriting each day. Kids can invent their own fonts and use them to letter place cards for the family dinner table, invitations to a party, or a thank you note.

4. Start a diary or journal. This is a great way for children to write daily, and additionally allows them to share their innermost thoughts, dreams, and fears on paper. University of Texas at Austin psychologist James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells and reduces stress. Not to mention, makes a great keepsake for remembering stages of life.

5. Write a story.  Kids can really get their creative juices flowing by writing a story down on paper; you may even want to give them a special notebook just for the task.