When was the last time you wrote something— a note to a friend, a proposal for work—by hand? Today, typing has become a nearly ubiquitous method of communication, but research suggests that putting pen to paper not only helps young children learn how to read, but that it could also help adults become better writers and learn new concepts.
Handwriting has become a hot-button topic of late because the Common Core State Standards, established in 2010 to guide education curricula, require that schools teach it only in kindergarten and first grade-after that, the focus shifts to typing. Yet "in children, writing by hand helps improve letter A recognition, which I is the strongest I predictor of reading success," explains Karin James, Ph.D., a psychologist at Indiana University.
In a 2012 study, James and her colleagues found that when 5-year-olds were shown letters that they had practiced writing by hand, they used brain regions known to be involved in the mastery of reading skills; they did not use these areas after they typed or traced the letters. Although fine motor skills are important, James speculates that some of the benefits of writing by hand stem from its inherent messiness: No two A's or B's that children write look the same, and these variations may help them recognize letters' basic characteristics.
Studies have also found that adults write better and longer prose when they are faster at writing by hand. And we may process what we write by hand more deeply. A 2014 study reported that college students who took longhand notes answered conceptual questions about the material better than students who had typed their notes—meaning that, at least in some ways, students may be better off with a composition pad than a keyboard.
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