Why Write Right? Handwriting Helps


In today’s digital age, does it really matter if a child holds a pencil correctly?

The answer may surprise you. Here it is…wait for it…yes.

Why writing matters

But why? It turns out that writing is one of the roads to learning, and it works in a different way than typing (or swyping) does. Kids need to write to learn effectively and efficiently.

But don’t take my word for it.

  • Read this article on the how’s and why’s of correct pencil grip on an occupational therapy site
  • If you want to feel really smart and research-based about it, read this academic article on importance of proper pencil grip.
  • If that wet your whistle for more of that type of writing, follow up with this academic article on handwriting readiness that discusses why proper grip is crucial.

Writing in a digital age

Want to know why kids still need to know how to write in a world of keyboards and smooth screens?

  • Learn about why here and here.
  • Dr. Karin James is a key researcher on this. Find lists of her articles here.
  • Are you looking for suggestions for selecting a handwriting program? Look here.
  • If you’re really motivated, you can start a handwriting club! You can find some great resource on how a “handwriting club” works, including sample agenda and activities here.

But what about your iPad?

This isn’t a fight between paper and the iPad. It turns out that there are some quality apps for handwriting. Who knew?

Check these out:

Here’s when you should be concerned with a pencil grip:

– Does the child complain about pain or tiredness in the writing hand?

– Does the child write with the whole fist?

– Does the child hyperextend the thumb joint toward the tip of the thumb? It’s called the IP joint. See a picture here (Does it scare you that I read hand surgeon’s web sites? I’m a Renaissance woman, I tell you!)

– Does the child appear to be stressing any other joints? Sometimes an atypical grip is more than just odd looking. It can be creating joint stress.

– Is there any hyperextension of the DIP joint in the index finger? The index finger should be essentially straight from the knuckle to the end of the finger. If it’s not, there’s stress there, even if the child denies it (“It feels FINE, I tell you”).

– Is the child’s grip interfering with the vision of the tip of the pencil?

See a great visual with some sample poor grips here.

Visual or fine motor skill delay can affect legibility and writing speed as well, which is why an occupational therapy evaluation is important if you have a question about it. For help finding an occupational therapist, visit this site.

You might want to go write that down.

If you’re interested in why it’s better to take notes by hand, rather than on a device, you might like this post as well.

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