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When Should my Child Learn Cursive?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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Who knew a debate raged over when children should learn to write in cursive? Cursive, incidentally, is defined as the flowing writing style that connects letters to one another, rather than keeping them separate, as in printing. For many years in the United States, beginning in the 19th century and continuing through the mid-20th century, children were taught to write in this way as soon as they started school. In the 1960s, new education theories taught that first-graders really didn’t have the necessary fine motor skills to handle this type of writing. With that, the fat pencils and ball-and-stick method of printing appeared in classrooms nationwide.

As computers have become increasingly popular, and with them, the prevalence of communicating via e-mail, there is some question of whether a child even needs to learn cursive. From some educators, the answer is an unqualified “yes,” and the sooner the child gets started, the better. Some educators argue that teaching connected writing before printing solves many more problems than it creates. They contend that writing in cursive teaches children to read more quickly, since they must write words in a connected form, rather than as discrete letters.

These educators also say that dyslexic students have an easier time with cursive, since the letters are unique in shape. There’s no confusion between “d” and “b” as there may be when writing in print, for instance. Enthusiasts also say the writing style is easier, since it only involves three strokes: the over-curve, the under-curve and an up-and-down stroke. They contend this is the reason our grandparents’ handwriting is so clear and legible: they learned it from first grade, and cursive is inherently easier to learn.

On the opposing side, some educators believe that children will never really need cursive writing, and can make do with printing and a rudimentary knowledge of connected writing. They base this on the prevalence of computer use for much correspondence. Many people use computers for letter-writing anyway, since they feel they do not write very legibly by hand.

In essence, many of these arguments are more cultural than practical. Most children will learn some cursive in school. However, a parent can start a child writing this way whenever the child expresses a desire to do so, even if the student has not yet started school. Handwriting books and practice materials are available at all teaching supply stores. Children might be more willing to learn joined writing if they do not feel pressured to do so in class, but can do it at home in a more relaxed environment.

Even if a child does not want to learn cursive, parents should insist that their child write neatly, however he or she writes. Children will inevitably be required to fill out a form, do worksheets and take composition essay tests in higher grades, for which neat handwriting is required.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at Language & Humanities. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon117762 — On Oct 11, 2010

I fully intend to make sure my kids (and my nephew, if possible) learn cursive. It's more about style and creativity to me, and teaching the importance of creating something of beauty, teaching that writing is more than words on a page but the sum of the thought and work that went into it.

I hope that it will also improve their handwriting (my husband's handwriting--and spelling!--is so bad. I want our kids to learn finer motor control). Regardless of whether or not the local schools offer to teach my kiddos, they will learn!

By anon19503 — On Oct 13, 2008

This article was intended to present both sides of an argument about when, or if, a child should learn cursive. It is a distillation of several different opinions from various sources. The author is not an education professional, and is therefore not qualified to render an independent opinion on your teaching methods. Her opinion is, if you have success with your methods, then obviously, they are good education models for your students. Go with what works.

By rmanrique — On Oct 11, 2008

Hmm...looks that no one provided any feedback about what I posted long time ago. I should assume I am right about mixing the computer with handwriting.

Ricardo G. Manrique Computer Instructor.

By anon6988 — On Jan 15, 2008

Dear Editor,

I have been teaching computer basics for ESL high school students and adults for over six years now, and I have mixed the use of the computer with the handwriting method to have my intermediate & advanced computer students practice their English writing skills [All academic disciplines must add English literacy as part of their curriculum].

Since there are free ESL stories with audio on the Internet, I print, format, and illustrate each one before handing them out. After the stories have been typed, formatted and illustrated, the students listen to the stories, AND answer the battery of questions [Yes/No; Wh-; Ask] and Dictation using pencil and paper...instead of typing the answers online [although students do verify answers online!].

I find that using pencil and paper delivers more than using the computer for the particular tasks explained above. I believe that the computer is rather obtrusive for these tasks.

Please let me know of your opinion / experts opinions on these matters.

Thank you for your help.

A concerned instructor.

p.s. Please notice that I teach my students how to help themselves with their English using the computer, rather than teaching them English.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at Language &...
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