The Age Of The Writeable: What’s Really Going On With Kids These Days?
(Image Credit: Teens Taking Center Stage)
Remember a world when you just wrote your name instead of making it the same way you write in your head and with your tongue?
Back in the day, to teach a child to write their first name, all that it took was a little crayon and the author wishing that his audience would learn to write their name the same way they write their name in their heads. You could very well ask a toddler to learn to draw a flower as well, but if the child could not spell out their name in flower form, why would anyone ever try to teach them to do that?
But alas, that’s not the case anymore.
In fact, there’s an ever-expanding number of curricula now used to encourage kids to learn to write their name in certain styles:
• Doodle: There’s a market for every pen-maker known to man, and these should be told to their faces. Sure, it sounds cool when you scroll down to see the scribbles of your 2-year-old smiling down at you, but one needs to ask what harm does this creative exercise do? First off, hand-hewn doodles are a thing of the past, because the printing industry has grown to such an extent that children are working with one of the fastest moving transferable technology anywhere in the world. Second, “Shovel” can be easily replaced by the same stylus that can print the same image as their doodle. They should be sent up on the world stage with a side of crayons and folders instead.
• Dialog: This is a rules-based letter-writing structure. Here’s a great instructional video on the subject that’s better suited for nursery school kids than a 10-year-old:
• Snap!: Cursive handwriting was considered uncool back in the ’70s. Many wrote their names with a capital letter, a number and they even altered letters’ grooves to make them more symmetrical. My husband is a very gifted musician but does not know a single musical note from three different b-flat notes. So does he have to remember all of the rules of penciling music? Not at all.
• Yowza!: What has happened to those old-school styluses with the really big buttons on them? Yep, they still exist. But the days of our forefathers are long gone. Instead, we have grown children with fingers who don’t know how to swipe text messages or do any kind of social media, let alone tap out the music they love. No need to be force-fed that old technique.
• Jot: Children will develop their own style of writing whether or not you insist they use it. That old-fashioned paper notebook is a thing of the past, and these days, it’s not uncommon to see kids with crib sheets of pages with their hand written on top of them. They just use their fingers.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each of these styles. According to researcher Rachel Torgerson, who looked at handwriting among preschoolers in the 1980s, handwritings use fewer letters but have an impact on creativity. In contrast, using a digital device to write is significantly harder on kids’ neural systems, so the result can be mushy writing with lots of mistakes. Torgerson also found that young kids who wrote using traditional writing methods did better in standardized tests.
All of this is fine—as long as we train our children to write the same way they understand to write, that is. Torgerson claims that simply giving children a choice and seeing how well they can type their first name out is not the best way to learn to write their own name.
Certainly, handwriting can and should be emphasized on the family level. I personally use a lot of crayons as I write my son’s name, and I encourage him to do the same with his pals. My mom taught me how to type on a typewriter at age six, but I also use a Sharpie stick to draw my arm on the wall, which shows him I can easily do an assignment, too.
There is nothing wrong with a creative outlet if it fosters a child’s artistic self and makes them feel secure. Children who develop good handwriting habits early on are more likely to continue writing when they grow up. But do not use them as a way to round out a boring project.