Although the days of perfect penmanship are behind us, it’s important understand the benefits of writing by hand.
As a child learns to write, they are also enhancing their reading skills. Writing, with its recurring and rhythmic nature, reinforces the same visual movement across a page as reading. As a child’s writing skills improve, they focus less on the formation of letters and more on the content of what they are writing, which in turn improves their reading of those same words and letters. The centre in the brain that is related to movement patterns of writing is called “kinaesthetic memory”. It is the first memory centre to develop and forms the longest and most lasting memories. As a child learns to write letters, the movements are stored in this kinaesthetic memory centre.
The working memory system of the brain is also used for both reading and writing. The brain takes in what the eye sees and interprets it based on what is stored in the long-term memory of the child. Letters and words are processed the same way regardless of how they are received. If working memory can draw upon kinaesthetic memory to identify letters, the brain will respond to the letters on the page sooner. The motor patterns used for typing words on a keyboard are different than for writing, therefore, the same benefits are not seen when a child learns to type
“In one Indiana University study,1 researchers conducted brain scans on pre-literate 5-year olds before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters. The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during hand writing, but not during typing.”
Check out this great YouTube video on the benefits of handwriting.