Shunned in the computer age, italics returns to California By Reuters

By Daniele Trotta

FULLERTON, California (Reuters) – A generation of children who learned to write on screens is now going the old fashioned way.

Starting this year, California elementary school students will have to learn cursive writing, after that skill fell out of fashion in the computer age.

Assembly Bill 446, sponsored by former elementary school teacher Sharon Quirk-Silva and signed into law in October, requires handwriting instruction for the 2.6 million Californians in grades one through six , roughly ages 6 to 12, and cursive lessons for the “appropriate” grade levels – generally considered third grade and above.

Experts say learning cursive improves cognitive development, reading comprehension and motor skills, among other benefits. Some educators also find it helpful to teach children to read historical documents and family letters from past generations.

At Orangethorpe Elementary School in Fullerton, about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Los Angeles, fourth- and sixth-grade teacher Pamela Keller said she was already teaching cursive before the law took effect on 1 ° January.

Some kids complain about the difficulty, to which Keller has a ready answer.

“We tell them it’s going to make you smarter, make some connections in your brain and help you get to the next level. And then they get excited because students want to be smarter. They want to learn,” Keller said.

While teaching a cursive lesson this week, Keller gave gentle advice to her students such as, “Lighten up a little – do it very gently… An eraser is our best friend… That noose is wonderful. I love that noose. “

During a recent visit to the school library, Keller said one student became animated when he saw a picture of the U.S. Constitution, written in 1787, remarking, “It’s cursive!”

Many of Keller’s students recognized that the topic was difficult, especially the letter Z, but enjoyed it anyway.

“I like it, because I feel like it’s more elaborate like writing, and it’s fun to learn new letters,” said Sophie Guardia, a 9-year-old in fourth grade.

In teacher Nancy Karcher’s class, third graders’ reactions ranged from “It’s fun” and “It’s cute” to “Now I can read my mother’s handwriting” and “It’s for my secrets.”


With the proliferation of computer keyboards and tablets, cursive has disappeared. In 2010, the Common Core national education standards were published to help prepare students for college. The italics have been omitted.

“They’ve stopped teaching kids how to form letters. Teacher colleges aren’t preparing teachers to teach handwriting,” said Kathleen Wright, founder of the Handwriting Collective, a nonprofit that promotes handwriting. teaching handwriting.

But italics are coming back into fashion. According to Lauren Gendill of the National Conference of State Legislatures, California became the 22nd state to require cursive writing and the 14th to enact a cursive education bill since 2014. So far, five states have introduced cursive writing laws in 2024 .

Leslie Zoroya, project director for reading language arts at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said research has shown that learning cursive promotes different skills that connect to each other and improve childhood development.

“You use different neural networks when you use cursive versus printing. And so you create those pathways in your brain. It also helps with information retention, how letters are formed. As you create the letter, you’re thinking about the sound that letter makes and how it relates to the next letter,” Zoroya said.

Quirk-Silva said she was inspired to sponsor the bill after a 2016 meeting with former Jesuit-educated governor Jerry Brown, who, when he learned that the recently re-elected assemblyman was a teacher, immediately told her, “You need to bring back cursive writing.”

Technically cursive was still alive. California standards included cursive writing goals, but Quirk-Silva said the instruction was weak and inconsistent.

“The hope of the legislation is that by the time students leave sixth grade, they will be able to read and write,” Quirk-Silva said.

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