Wednesday, January 23, 2008

National Handwriting Day

Today is National Handwriting Day so I am on my soapbox. Stationer's say that special stationary is making a come back as people do feel that a handwritten note or Thank You is much preferable to a e-card which fancy, animated or whatever is just deleted. In the handwriting the personality of the writer and their feeling comes through and it is more special. It means more to the recipient because the sender took the time and trouble to put their thoughts and feelings on paper, perhaps to be kept as a momento.

I am one who decries the lack of handwriting lessons in the schools. I understand that the attention span of children of all ages is short to zip because of the speed of information on the internet in particular. And that is my point. One of the few things educators agree upon is that people with good handwriting skills learn better and spell better than those whose skills are more limited.

One reason for the limited attention span is that so many children learn from videos and games with lots of animation and flickering screens giving information in shorts burst of movement. Then as teens and younger they get to playing games with split screens and fast movement that requires intense concentration and fast reaction. So to do anything in real time with no distracting movement and color is boring. They can't slow down to a reasonable level for the rest of the world and as for spelling. When texting costs by the byte they learn to use single letters for words and phrases or to cut out letters they consider unnecessay so who can blame them if they can't spell.

My grand-daughter is now in pre-school and often will say "pay attention to me" or "look at me" when I am busy and listening but not facing her. I think we all need to do this more frequently and at least try to teach children in the k-5 grades to write better because there were a lot of benefits educators do not realize on the subsconscious level about handwriting and penmanship. It does not have to take hours or even 30 minutes at a time. Daniel Dumont in France has a way of teaching students as early as kindergarten to not only write cursively but extremely well. For one thing she uses rhythmic movement which is then translated to the chalkboard and later to paper. Using circles, loops, and waves she teaches control and how by combining some of these movements the children can actually form words. That really sparks their interest. Another effect of her teaching is being able to properly hold a pen or pencil so they don't have the problem or excuse of sore fingers, bad wrists or cramped hands from writing.
When you slow down to hand write something be it a poem, letter or the worlds next best selling novel thoughts seem to flow easier because you are not moving so fast. It is easier to try a new turn of phrase on paper where you can see both and read through them deciding which is best. Mark Twain was an advocate for getting it all out on paper. "We write frankly and fearlessly, but then we 'modify' before we print," he wrote in his 1883 "Life on the Mississippi."

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