Does Writing by Hand Help Children to Read?

Learn about the new study that shows that writing by hand helps children read and learn handwriting skills faster.
Does Writing by Hand Help Children to Read?
Pedro González Núñez

Written and verified by the child educator Pedro González Núñez.

Last update: 30 December, 2022

Getting children to enjoy reading isn’t always easy, as they tend to have little patience and, for the most part, prefer more dynamic or technological activities. Even so, it’s interesting to know that science has shown, once again, that maintaining the habit of writing by hand helps with reading.

We all know that reading and writing are two indispensable elements for children’s development. These tools are extremely useful for children to evolve properly and acquire a greater capacity to process information.

And the fact is that, by writing by hand, children improve their information retention skills. In turn, this favors the speed of learning and also the comprehension of letters and words.

The study that claims that writing by hand helps with reading

Recently, a study was conducted at the prestigious John Hopkins University, which has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

This study was conducted on 42 adults, both from the university and the local community, whose ages ranged from adolescence to the thirties. All participants had to learn to write Arabic letters (as a second language) during six instructional sessions.

The enrollees were divided into three groups according to the learning method. The first group watched videos, the second group wrote by hand, and the last group wrote answers. The objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of the different teaching strategies for learning the new language.

A digitial image of a brain overlapping a photo of a hand writing in a notebook.

The results

Once each group received the information, they had to perform various tasks:

  • Those who wrote by hand had to write the letter with pencil and paper.
  • Those who visualized the letter on a screen had to identify it.
  • Finally, those who received typed responses had to locate the corresponding letter on a keyboard.

This is how it was determined that those who wrote freehand achieved better and faster learning of the information, with respect to the other groups. Apparently, such manual labor helped them to optimize information processing and this suggests that handwriting is the most competent teaching method.

In their conclusions, the researchers clarified that these results have no direct correlation with young children and school children, as the experiment focused on young adults learning a second language.

That being said, there’s a previous study that suggests some correlation between this teaching method and literacy learning in children. However, this association is not fully proven and more studies in this population are needed to confirm it.

Handwriting is very important for child development

In short, the study we’ve shared shows that the motor action of writing has a very positive effect on the learning of reading skills. In this regard, it’s a good idea for children to learn to write by hand, with pencils and pens, instead of using computer keyboards or cell phones.

In turn, this motor skill activates a number of brain domains, involving memory, language, motor skills, and thinking.

This is how students learn to perceive the different letters in a more autonomous way. And then, they also increase the ability to memorize them, which facilitates learning and improving reading skills in all areas.

We must keep in mind that writing by hand is a rather complex activity, even more so than reading. Therefore, it’s important to look for ways to improve writing and eliminate those that have a negative influence on such learning.

A child thinking.

Handwriting, a fantastic activity for the brain

When writing by hand, our brain generates memories. Scans of this important organ show high activity while visualizing and drawing letters, which in turn increases brain synchronicity.

As this study has shown, there’s a motor component in learning to read (writing) that facilitates word acquisition. And this factor is especially beneficial when it’s done by hand.

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