Handwriting instruction is beneficial beyond the practical standpoint of legibility. MRI scans of children’s brains have shown that writing by hand activates parts of the brain associated with language development. Recent research indicates that writing by hand improves letter and shape learning as well as well as idea expression and composition. Unlike pressing on a keyboard, handwriting promotes a deep knowledge of letters that links reading and spelling understanding.
Competence in handwriting also promotes higher quality written work. As a student becomes more fluent in handwriting, they are then able to write with automaticity which in turn allows the student to devote more mental energy to the content of the writing at hand. Just as fluency in reading promotes comprehension of text, fluency in writing promotes thoughtful reflection in writing since the writer’s thought process is freed up to focus primarily on the content of the written matter.
A study completed at Indiana University found that children who had practiced writing by hand showed more enhanced neural activity than the children who simply looked at letters. Manually manipulating and drawing letters requires the execution of sequential strokes whereas typing a letter on a keyboard simply involves touching a key. Additional information about this research study and additional studies were cited in the Wall Street Journal on October 5, 2010.