The Link Between Handwriting And Academic Success In Kids

Handwriting skills are linked to better academic performance in kids, according to research. Multiple studies show that handwriting proficiency is associated with superior reading, writing, and cognition in students. Handwriting engages different neural pathways than typing, leading to improved memory, literacy, and learning outcomes. This article provides an overview of the research demonstrating the connection between good handwriting and academic achievement across subjects.

Handwriting and Reading Skills

Research shows a clear connection between handwriting and reading skills development in children. Handwriting helps reinforce letter recognition, which aids reading skills. Studies have found that the process of writing letters by hand contributes to the visual recognition of words ( The motor experience of shaping letters by hand builds a stronger mental representation and “letter knowledge” as compared to just looking at letters ( One study found that students who wrote letters by hand when learning to read had significantly better reading skills than those who just typed letters or watched videos. Handwriting letters seems to activate the reading and writing sections of the brain in a way that supports overall literacy ( The connection between handwriting and reading skills suggests that handwriting practice should be an integral part of early reading instruction.

Handwriting and Cognitive Development

Research shows that the motor skills used in handwriting contribute significantly to cognitive development in children. The actual process of handwriting engages regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory (James, 2012). Handwriting helps build these important neurological connections and pathways in the brain.

Specifically, the fine motor skills involved in grasping a pencil and coordinating the eyes, arms, and hands to form letters and shapes boosts brain development in areas linked to reading, communication, focus, and memory. Young children learn and retain knowledge better when they engage their motor skills through hands-on activities like handwriting (PLD Literacy, 2019).

Research using MRIs shows that handwriting practice activates regions of the brain involved in letter recognition and shapes, reinforcing thevisual recognition and sequencing skills needed for reading. Handwriting helps connect written letters to their sounds, aiding early literacy. The physical letter formation in handwriting also provides motor memory that improves letter retention and production.

Handwriting and Knowledge Retention

Research has shown that writing notes by hand leads to better retention and understanding compared to typing notes. A recent study published on Stack Overflow Blog found that participants who took notes by hand performed significantly better on a knowledge retention test than those who took notes on a laptop (

The process of handwriting helps reinforce the learning process and allows information to stick in memory better than typing. A 2021 study in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience showed that handwriting activated parts of the brain involved in learning and memory formation more than typing ( Researchers believe handwriting helps create a “memory trace” that aids later recall.

Overall, research supports the idea that handwriting notes and information leads to improved retention and understanding compared to typed notes. The unique cognitive benefits of handwriting appear to help strengthen memory and learning.

Handwriting Fluency and Written Expression

Handwriting fluency frees up cognitive resources for composition and expression. When children do not need to concentrate on letter formation and handwriting mechanics, they can focus their mental energy on translating thoughts and ideas into written words and sentences. Research has found that handwriting fluency is a predictor of length and quality of written compositions in the early primary grades (

Slow, effortful writing can inhibit a child’s written expression abilities. Children may avoid writing or write less when handwriting is laborious. This affects their ability to fully demonstrate their knowledge and express their ideas through writing. Handwriting instruction should emphasize fluency so students can develop into competent writers.

Recommendations for Handwriting Instruction

When it comes to teaching handwriting skills to children, research shows that starting early and providing frequent, focused practice can help kids develop legible and fluent handwriting. Some key recommendations for effective handwriting instruction include:

In the classroom, teachers should provide short, structured handwriting lessons 2-3 times per week. Lessons should focus on correct letter formation, proper grip, and good posture. Students should practice handwriting using multisensory techniques – tracing letters, writing on different textures, using magnetic letters etc. Completing handwriting worksheets and journals can provide additional practice. Teachers should provide feedback and encouragement, allowing time for improvement before judging legibility. They can break down letters into stroke sequences to teach sequential movements. Consistent instruction and modeling of letter formation is key across grade levels.

At home, parents can encourage handwriting practice through fun activities. Have kids practice writing letters with their finger in shaving cream or sand. Use sidewalk chalk to write letters and words outside. Provide thick pencils, markers, and paper with extra lines to learn proper size and spacing. Praise your child’s effort and neatness. Point out what they are doing well. Set a positive tone and avoid harsh criticism. Make writing a natural part of everyday play and routines. Maintain communication with teachers to continue skill development at home. With patience and persistence, handwriting can become an enjoyable lifelong skill.


Addressing Handwriting Difficulties

Handwriting difficulties can present in various ways in children. Some common signs include inconsistent letter formation, varying letter sizes, poor spacing between words, difficulty staying on the line, awkward pencil grip, and slow writing speed (1). These issues can frustrate kids and make writing tasks laborious.

There are several strategies that can help kids who struggle with handwriting (2):

  • Provide extra time for handwriting tasks like note-taking or worksheets.
  • Use special pencil grips or weighted pencils to facilitate proper grip.
  • Allow typing for long writing assignments to reduce fatigue.
  • Work on dexterity with play dough, clothespin activities, and tracing.
  • Use lined paper with extra spacing to practice proper letter size and spacing.
  • Break writing into smaller, manageable chunks.
  • Focus on quality over quantity when practicing writing.
  • Incorporate multi-sensory techniques like writing letters with fingers in shaving cream.

Seeking occupational therapy or support from specialists at school can also help diagnose issues and provide targeted handwriting instruction (3). With patience and consistency, children’s handwriting can improve significantly.

Role of Typing and Keyboarding

While handwriting has many benefits, typing and keyboarding skills are also important for academic success. Typing helps improve spelling and grammar, as most word processing programs have built-in spell checkers and grammar assistance. It allows students to produce written work more quickly and neatly. Typing is essential for completing assignments on computers and taking standardized tests online. Students who have strong typing skills can focus on the content of their writing, rather than struggling with handwriting mechanics.

Experts recommend striking a balance between handwriting instruction and typing practice in early elementary school. According to a study by Berninger et al. (2009), a combination of handwriting and typing produced better reading and writing outcomes than just handwriting alone [1]. While handwriting lays the foundation for literacy, typing and keyboarding are crucial skills for academic and professional success in the digital age. The key is ensuring students develop competence in both realms.

Educators should continue handwriting instruction in the early grades while also introducing typing skills. Around 3rd or 4th grade, students can transition to typing more lengthy assignments while maintaining regular handwriting practice. Finding the right balance between handwriting and typing will promote overall academic achievement.

Fostering Overall Academic Success

Handwriting is one part of overall academic development. While handwriting skills are important, there are other key factors that contribute to student success such as reading, access to tutoring, and socioeconomic status.

According to research from Children at Risk, most student achievement is attributed to out-of-school factors. Only about one-third of student achievement is associated with school quality and in-school factors

Reading skills have been shown to have a significant impact on academic performance. Developing strong reading comprehension allows students to understand and retain more information across subjects. Providing ample opportunities to read and access to reading tutors and instruction can aid reading development.

Socioeconomic status also plays a major role, as students from disadvantaged backgrounds often face challenges like food and housing insecurity that can negatively impact academic achievement. Schools and communities can help address these needs through programs and resources.

While handwriting remains important for skills like idea generation, focus, and knowledge retention, a well-rounded approach is necessary to fully support a child’s academic development and success.


In summary, research shows that handwriting instruction can benefit children’s academic achievement in various ways. Handwriting helps strengthen reading skills, builds cognitive pathways in the brain, improves knowledge retention and comprehension, and leads to greater fluency and quality in written expression. While typing and digital skills are also important for today’s students, handwriting should not be neglected, as it continues to play a key role in learning, literacy, fine motor skills, and overall academic success. The takeaway is that handwriting remains a vital skill for children even in our digital age. Integrating handwriting instruction and practice with typing and keyboarding can help maximize academic achievement.

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