If you are teaching your child to read, then getting your child to work on his handwriting skills is a good supplementary activity based on the findings that handwriting enhances reading. This is because “kinesthetic learning results in very powerful memories”. Hmmm… no wonder I’ve always found it easier to remember more of what I’ve read if I take notes as opposed to just reading it. Writing is such a powerful learning modality that “dyslexic students in particular often need to use writing in order to learn to read”.
What does this mean for young children learning to read? Based on the research, it appears that learning to write the “alphabet enhances letter recognition and promotes automaticity” and the “speed and accuracy with which beginning readers recognize individual letters are determinants of their future reading skill”. To enhance your child’s reading program, you should complement it with a good handwriting program.
What constitutes a good handwriting program?
“A good handwriting program involves three simultaneous processes: listening to the sound of the letter (the auditory component), looking at the letter (the visual component), and making the movement to form the letter (the kinesthetic component).”
Handwriting strengthens the sound-symbol connection, therefore it should be a component of any reading program. For more information on implementing a writing program for your child, see Writing Road to Reading. LD Online offers the following suggestions:
- Teach children consistent formation of letters using a continuous stroke if possible.
- Focus initially on learning the motor pattern rather than perfect legibility or size.
- Teach similarly formed letters together, and use an instructional sequence that takes into account both ease of formation and frequency in words (e.g. c, a, d all begin with the same curve).
- Separate reversible letters such as b and d.
- Use written arrow cues to help children remember how to form letters.
- For children at beginning stages of reading and spelling, integrate handwriting instruction with instruction in letter sounds.
- In teaching cursive, explicitly teach connections between letters as well as formation of single letters.
- Aim for speed as well as legibility.
Resources for teaching young children to write – Kumon offers some good workbooks for teaching young children to write.
Recommended iPhone App for handwriting practice – the iPhone also has a variety of Apps for teaching handwriting. It is important to make sure that the App teaches your child correct letter formation with arrow directions. I recently purchased iWriteWords for Gavin because I noticed he was stubbornly using the wrong letter formation despite being corrected on numerous occasions. iWriteWords not only teaches correct letter strokes, it also prevents children from using the wrong letter formation.