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Surprising Science

How Handwriting Benefits the Mind

Emerging research shows that handwriting increases brain activity, hones fine motor skills, and can predict a child’s academic success in ways that keyboarding can’t.

What’s the Latest Development?

Karin Harman James, an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, says: “For children, handwriting is extremely important. Not how well they do it, but that they do it and practice it. Typing does not do the same thing.” When I.U. researchers did brain scans on children who wrote letters and those who simply identified them, they found that the kids who practiced writing showed brain activation similar to an adult’s.

What’s the Big Idea?

What are some benefits of handwriting? “Good handwriting can mean better grades. Studies show that the same mediocre paper is graded much higher if the handwriting is neat and much lower if the writing is not. Handwriting is faster. Researchers who tested second-, fourth- and sixth-graders found that children compose essays more prolifically—and faster—when using a pen rather than a keyboard.” Researchers say handwriting also benefits the memory by engaging the body in a more physical activity than just remembering a shopping list. 


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