I was thrilled when I came across this article on BBC News earlier this year. It tells the story of how an eight-year-old boy, Noah, has made a new friend thousands of miles away after finding a message in a bottle washed up on a Cornish beach.
The boy and his father came across the message in the bottle whilst helping to clear their local beach of the large amounts of waste that had been washed up by the storm. Upon finding the message, Noah and his father decided to email the address on the note and received a reply from a ten-year-old girl in Canada, who explained how she had put it in the bottle and sent it out to sea six months earlier.
I am delighted to see that this young girl decided to do something fun and different with her ability to write by hand, but I am even more delighted to see how legible her handwriting is, written in a printed style.
However, this article has made me wonder whether the girl would have received a reply at all, if her handwriting had been illegible and the boy and his father were unable to read it. If the young girl had been rushed into joining her writing with a cursive style before she had mastered the basics of handwriting, like more and more schools in the UK are doing, would her writing have been as legible and easy to read and understand? The answer is almost certainly no.
This is just another example (certainly a more unusual example) demonstrating the importance of legible handwriting.
Throughout our adult life we use and require printed writing on a regular basis, from filling in forms and taking down email addresses, to reading – notice how the letters and words in books, magazines and newspapers are all in a printed style?
Not only this, but applying this to our more digital age, letters and words online are also in a printed style, from posts on social media sites, to website content such as this blog. We read in a printed style, so surely learning a cursive style from as early as Reception age will have an effect of a child’s ability to read? The child will become so used to how letters and words look written in a cursive style that when presented with something to read in a printed style, the words and letters will look unrecognisable.
With these facts in mind, I raised my eyebrows when I heard that the current trend in nursery schools is to ensure that the continuous cursive joined up style of handwriting with the entry/lead in stroke is used. I further raised my eyebrows when Magic Link, a handwriting programme that featured on Dragon’s Den, said ‘Children can have a very hard time with writing in print because many of the letters look similar particularly b and d.’ For this reason, Magic Link only teach cursive handwriting.
I completely disagree with their statement and also the teaching of cursive writing before Year 3, especially using the continuous cursive style with an entry/lead in stroke. If print is taught correctly as per the National Curriculum, by teaching printed letters in their handwriting families, children will never mistake their b and d.
The purpose of handwriting is to communicate which is only possible if the writing is legible and many children do not have legible cursive handwriting, as I have witnessed first-hand at my handwriting workshops and whilst working with schools across the country.
I would much rather see beautiful legible printed handwriting over a messy cursive scrawl.
What are your thoughts on printed vs cursive handwriting?