On January 23rd every year, we celebrate National Handwriting Day. Why that date? In the early 1980s, the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association began using John Hancock’s birthday to promote their members. Then, handwriting professionals jumped on the bandwagon. The American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, with members around the world, extends the date to make it International Handwriting Week.
Put your John Hancock here
Why John Hancock’s signature? It’s the biggest, boldest signature on the US Declaration of Independence, and Hancock was the first to sign. An apocryphal tale says he signed it that way so King George would not need to wear his spectacles to read it. So, when someone says “put your John Hancock here,” they are asking you to sign something. Sadly, in the 21st century, many young people don’t know how to sign their own name.
Cursive, it’s not subversive
Why is it that so many kids don’t know how to write in cursive? What happened to handwriting training in schools?
I am frequently asked these questions when I speak to various groups about handwriting and personality. The short answer is the Common Core Curriculum. In 2009, the requirement for public schools to teach cursive writing was removed from the CCC, leading many schools to simply drop it. Their shortsighted view was, kids just need to learn keyboarding. Well, that ain’t so. In 2018, the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation published a white paper on the topic and translated it into 7 languages. Click on the link above to download your free copy.
The white paper lists more than 80 peer-reviewed, published studies that demonstrate why handwriting training is still important in an electronic age. Bottom line, it helps in brain development. Children who learn to write in cursive remember information better, read better, and spell better than those who just learn printed writing. Cursive training can even help improve behavior by calming the excitable right brain and developing the more controlled left.
If you need help getting your school district to teach your kids this vital lifelong skill, check out www.cursiveiscool.com for resources.
And finally, National Handwriting Day, January 23rd, kicked off the 8th annual Campaign for Cursive contest. Every elementary age child is invited to enter. This year, there will be random prize drawings and grand prizes, too. To enter: www.campaignforcursive.com
Penmanship and personality
Any teacher can tell you, even kids all taught by the same person at the same time do not write the same. That’s because many internal and external factors affect handwriting, one of which is the child’s personality. If you’re interested in learning why, I’ve published a bunch of books on that topic. Reading Between the Lines: Decoding Handwriting is a basic course in what you need to know to understand other people by the way they write.
Happily, handwriting training is starting to make a comeback. Currently, at my count, 25 states have requirements to teach penmanship in the early grades. Six states have legislation pending. Nine states leave it up to the school district, and eleven states have no requirement to teach handwriting (CT, AK, CO, HI, IN, MO, NB, ND, NH, VT, WA).