Cursive writing is making a comeback.
After being made optional in 2006, cursive will return this September as a mandatory part of the Ontario elementary school curriculum.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said cursive writing is a "critical life skill," and is much more than simply a writing technique.
"The research has been very clear that cursive writing is a critical life skill in helping young people to express more substantively, to think more critically, and ultimately, to express more authentically," he previously said in an interview.
Cursive writing is a critical life skill in helping young people to express more substantively.Stephen Lecce
Additionally, Ontario's new language curriculum will also focus on phonics and evidence-based methods. This change was introduced in response to a 2022 report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which revealed that the education system wasn't supporting students with reading disabilities.
"If we want to boost reading instruction, we have to embrace some of those time-tested strategies that have worked for generations," Lecce said.
Social media is divided
Almost immediately after news broke, people turned to social media to express their thoughts on the curriculum change.
Some people praised the return of cursive, noted the long-term benefits the craft offers — especially with regards to motor skills.
Excellent for fine motor skills - useful in many trades, delicate surgical procedures, and activates so many different brain connections … don’t even get me started on the fine arts :) Even if they don’t use it for writing, there are long term benefits and different applications
— Myles Calvert (@MylesCalvert) June 23, 2023
Cursive writing isn’t just about fancy printing. It encourages dexterity and requires more focus than block script. Cursive writing is great for a developing brain and should be taught in all grade school curricula.
— vapourwave homer🇨🇦 (@giddyupgo_) June 23, 2023
However, some people thought cursive writing isn't a practical skill that children should learn.
Why? The only thing cursive writing is used for is signing things. Such a useless skill to have nowadays
— Andrew (@SuperAndrew64) June 23, 2023
Learning cursive writing was so useless 💀
— Ice Hashira ❄️ 🔜 DreamCon☁️ (@Ace_ofHeARTS) May 6, 2023
Cursive has 'underlying benefits,' education expert says
When asked her initial thoughts on cursive writing returning to Ontario elementary schools, Rumack was "extremely thrilled.
"Cursive writing has so many underlying benefits. Most people see cursive writing as something that looks nice on paper. But it's actually a multi-sensory activity that combines fine motor skills, and visual and tactile processes that support cognitive development," she said.
Rumack added these cognitive functions — developed through cursive — can boost expression, critical thinking, memory and reading.
Additionally, the educator explained that cursive writing has tremendous benefits for students with certain learning or neurological disorders.
Most people see cursive writing as something that looks nice on paper. But it's actually a multi-sensory activity that combines fine motor skills, and visual and tactile processes that support cognitive development.Ruth Rumack
"[Cursive] has incredible benefits for students who have either dysgraphia, which is trouble holding the pen and manipulating the pen, as well as those with reading challenges like dyslexia," Rumack said.
However, if you don't understand the science behind why cursive is a positive learning and development tool, Rumack said it might not make a lot of sense.
"I can appreciate why it wouldn't make a lot of sense, the benefit of the value wouldn't be there. But when you dive into the research, it's quite astonishing," she revealed.
For years, Rumack's academic support centre has provided academic classes on a wide range of topics, including cursive.
Her program, called Handwriting Without Tears, is a clear way of teaching the scope and sequence of letter formation.
"There's a very intentional order in which we teach the letters. But we also include lots of games and activities. And we really make it dynamic," Rumack said.
Parenting expert says cursive is 'invaluable to kids'
In her eyes, it's a way for children to tap into their creative skills, and to encourage literacy and writing in a different medium.
Additionally, cursive offers an opportunity for children to connect with previous generations.
"Cursive connects children to the generations before them, and maybe it's a way that to relate with their grandparents so different generations can connect," Irwin told Yahoo Canada.
While Irwin believes cursive will come with some challenges for kids, such as frustration if they don't get it right away, it's a chance to teach children about the growth mindset.
"[Cursive] is a very progression-based skill. So with practice an time, they will hopefully get better. That's a skill that is invaluable to kids and as they grow into adulthood," she said.
Cursive is a very progression-based skill...that is invaluable to kids and as they grow into adulthood.Caron Irwin
If your child is experiencing difficulties with cursive come the fall, Irwin offers some tips:
One way is to tell your child how cool it is to learn something new, and that it's important to have different skills in your repertoire.
Another way is to develop similar skills with hand-eye coordination and muscle memory. Mazes and tracing exercises help kids learn how to hold a pencil with the required pressure, and teach them how to connect and glide lines on the page.
"Lastly, parents can also model cursive themselves. Show your child how to do it, and the parts you like about it. Make it fun and cool, and that should help a lot," Irwin said.