Monday, May 8, 2017

Enriching Education: Cursive

Interview with Carew Papritz—Author of the Award-Winning Inspirational Book, The Legacy Letters

Why is cursive an important skill?  
One of the most fascinating accomplishments a student loses is what I call the “Write of Passage.”  A short while ago I was helping this 4th grade student in an afterschool handwriting class who was trying to write her name in cursive for the first time.  She struggled to get the letters to connect perfectly and to get the right slant.  Over and over she rewrote her name so that the spacing and the height were all “perfect.”  When she was done, she turned to me and announced with a world of newfound pride in her voice, “Now I’m an adult.”
I had forgotten all about that amazing rite of passage and how much it meant to me as a child.  As adults, we forget how immensely important it is to want to become an adult, and learning how to write your name—not print—was one of the rites of passage that you were becoming an adult.  Even as a burgeoning writer at the age of ten, I wanted to write my name with all the character, flair, and confidence of all those amazing artists and writers before me.  And those writers were not just novelists.  They were also idea makers.  The ones whose “John Hancocks” we see at the bottom of our constitution.  Can you imagine this powerful document with signatures printed as if done by kindergarteners?  Kids print—adults write.
While losing this “Write of Passage” is sad, our biggest concern as parents, and as a country, should be why reading comprehension is falling off the cliff.  One of the major reasons is that our kids are now learning to write first by the “click or tap.” 
When a child taps an “A” on a keyboard, they might as well be tapping a “Z,” as far as their brains are concerned.  When a child physically writes the letter “A” for the first time, he or she sends an electrical signal to their brain that imprints that “A” on their neurons.  When they read an “A” on a page, they access the “A” they already know in their brains.  But if they tap or click an “A” on a keyboard or a tablet, they get the same effect as if they type a “K” or a “Z.”  There’s no physical relationship to the letter.  It's all the same “tap or click” to the brain.  Because kids are not using their hands to write, they’re not training their brains to “see” the letter.  Thus the ability to connect written letters to the written page becomes more and more problematic at a younger and younger age. 
But when a child learns to write an “A,” they then learn to connect it to the “A” on page—and that’s where the magic begins.  For when they read, they learn words which help them to communicate ideas.  They learn to think.  They learn to rethink and figure out stuff.  By rethinking, they learn to imagine.  And before you know it, they are communicating and creating the ideas and thoughts they have imagined.  They are learning to express themselves.  All because of writing an “A.”  Athletes don’t become great overnight.  They have to physically train their muscles to become stronger and to work in great coordination to obtain their ultimate performance.  Learning to read, comprehending what you have read, and communicating that comprehension is no different.  The brain needs to work out to become strong.  There are no shortcuts. 

Bekah Motherhood Moment:  If it's not part of the classroom, how can parents encourage cursive writing? 
Carew Papritz:  Remember—if you love it, they’ll love it.  That’s one of the reasons I wrote my book, The Legacy Letters—to get parents and kids talking about life and then doing life together.   That’s what an inspirational book is all about.  To inspire action.  And that’s the great beauty of having kids and one of the best parts of parenting—giving your kids your inspiration. Your curiosity.  Your love of life! 
Thus, if you’re really committed to giving your kids the gift of being able to write cursive, then practice what you preach.   Put away the phone, tablet, or laptop and sit down with your kids to learn writing.  Show them the importance of writing cursive in real life.  Write thank-you letters together and do it in cursive.  Write the grocery list in cursive.  Write grandma and grandpa who would love a cursive letter.  Write birthday invitations in cursive.  Think of what a wonderful gift you are giving your child who will someday be able to write real love letters, real thank-you letters, and real letters of life, rather than just e-mailing or texting like the rest of the world does.  Cursive writing—that’s a real living legacy you are giving to them that will last a lifetime.

What are some ways to make learning cursive fun?
Summer is fast approaching and it’s at this time of the year when parents start to wonder what they can do with their kids over the summer to keep them occupied but also to keep their minds engaged until the school year starts back up.  As a writer, I’m biased.  I think all kids should continue to learn handwriting.  But let’s be honest.  Teaching your kids handwriting is not one of the highest priorities of parents over the summer. There are a lot of things vying for kid’s attention and unfortunately there’s a go to “babysitter” for kids over the summer—something that keeps them happily occupied for hours on end. Can you guess it?  Yep—Technology. So, if we can be frank, if you can entice them away from the front of the TV or the  video games for a majority of their summer, you are already doing a stellar job!
So let’s do something to change that! Let’s put down the technology and focus more on the most important thing I would emphasis from my book, The Legacy Letters-- the importance of leading a life of adventure!  Live life to the fullest!  Get outside!  Get your kids invested in a passion!  It really doesn’t matter what it is.  Arts, sports, or yes even handwriting.   But with something like handwriting, you need your secret parent skills to make it fun.  Remember, handwriting should be as fun as any other summer activity, otherwise it’s just work!  (Or worse, it’s like school!)  And when something is work, especially during summer, your child will turn away from it like a fresh plate of Brussel Sprouts. 
Here are 10 fun ways to implement your secret parenting skills to teach your kids handwriting this summer.  Try one or try them all but at the end of the day it’s about spending time with your family.  You only have a small amount of summers you get to spend with your kids.  Show them what you love in life and the flexibility to be curious about it.
  • The Art of Invitation and Thank You!  Handwrite invitations for a party or activity they want their friends to attend.  Possibly followed by handwritten thank you letters.  You remember those?  What a great gift to teach your children.  This activity helps now only with handwriting but to also teach them the importance of manner which is one of the big things I emphasis in my book and in my life!
  • Eat Your Handwriting!  Make cupcakes or graham cracker treats that they have to write on with frosting before they eat it.  Everyone loves this!
  • Sandwriters Wanted!  Writing something big in the sand for a picture opportunity.  If you can’t go to the beach, then go to your local playground or bring the sand in on a tray. Write a short line or two, take a picture, and then send to your grandparents.  Grandparents love handwritten anything!
  • Make Kids the Temporary Adults!  When your child wants you to remember something, ask them to write you a note so you don’t forget.  For example:  “My allowance is due.”  They have fun being the adult by thinking they have to remind you to do something.  Kids love this!
  • Super-Secret Decoded Messages!  Leave your kids secret messages that they have to decode.  (Actually, just by writing in cursive is a secret code that they have to learn.  Again, make it fun!
  • The Best Mess in the World!  Write with shaving cream or bathtub paint in the bathtub.  Tell me that this isn’t the most fun activity in the world.  As a kid, you are legally allowed to make a great mess while having fun learning to write.  It doesn’t get any better than this.
  • Write on the Windows!   Write with window crayons on a glass window or door. This is the best way to do something your never allowed to do expect when your mom or dad says it’s okay to do this.  Write messages for neighbors to read “I hope you’re having a good summer!”   Or it can be a welcome home message for my mom or dad coming home from work.   Or just a “Have a Great Day!”  Nothing like spreading a happy message to the world!
  • Keep a Nature Journal.  This gets them outside and writing.  Make short notes about what they see.  This is good for kids who love to draw and write a short note about what they draw.  How great to write, draw, and be outside, all at the same time.
  • Save Money—Create a Card!  Make birthday or get well cards.  You can never go wrong with this.  (And it shows kids the importance of saving money.  I know—another secret adult trick to teach kids about life . . .
  • Swab the Deck with Cotton Swabs!  Dip cotton swabs in paint and write with them on paper. Another big winner!  (It’s more than you think!)
Remember—if you love it, they’ll love it.  Now, go have a great summer and play, write, and have fun! 
Carew Papritz

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