National Handwriting Day celebrates all the reasons penmanship is still useful
It’s probably been a long time since you put pen to paper to compose a letter, take notes, make a list or sign a check.
For old times’ sake, why not give it a try in honor of the original John Hancock?
National Handwriting Day falls each year on January 23, the birthday (according to the Gregorian calendar) of the American Revolutionary leader and first signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. (While the U.S. government recognizes Hancock’s birthday as January 12, others recognize his birthday as January 23 based on our modern-day calendar.)
The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association started this holiday in 1977 to acknowledge the history and influence of penmanship. Its reason for being grows more urgent each year as pens, pencils and paper lose ground to the QWERTY keyboard.
The earliest forms of writing date approximately 5,000 years ago. Once upon a time, children learned how to write in cursive as part of handwriting lessons in school. Those lessons are falling by the wayside as states adopt Common Core standards, which only require manuscript handwriting instruction until the first grade and cursive instruction is not mandated at all.
Opponents of cursive instruction argue it is no longer relevant and classroom instruction is better devoted to other subjects, including digital proficiency.
While it’s true that there are only so many classroom hours in the day, research shows there are still plenty of reasons to teach and practice legible penmanship.
Research shows that teaching handwriting skills benefit cognitive development and motor skills, and can lead to improved writing skills and reading comprehension. In other words, children not only learn to read faster when they learn to write by hand first, but research suggests they are also better at generating ideas and retaining information than children who do not practice handwriting.
A study published in 2006 that followed children in grades two to five showed that printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are associated with separate brain patterns and lead to different results. When children wrote text by hand, they produced more words faster than they did on a keyboard and expressed more ideas.
Further research suggests the benefits of handwriting continue into adulthood. A 2014 study, The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard, demonstrated the advantage of longhand over laptop note-taking.
While we’re not aware of scientific evidence supporting the warm feeling of receiving a handwritten thank you card or love letter, anecdotal evidence suggests there’s something there.
To celebrate the occasion, people are sharing images of handwritten notes on social media using the hashtags #HandWritingDay and #NationalHandWritingDay. What do you have to share?