Experts in penmanship

NEW MATAMORAS – Reading and ‘rithmetic may get the most time among the traditional three “R’s” in schools these days, but writing hasn’t been forgotten.

That’s certainly true in the Frontier Local school district, where a pair of New Matamoras Elementary students and one from Newport received special recognition in a national handwriting contest.

“I was pretty excited. I told just about everyone in my family,” said Newport sixth-grader Owen Price, who won second place in the manuscript category out of about 100 national entrants for the Nicholas Maxim Award, part of the 22nd annual Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.

Every student from first grade up at Newport and New Matamoras entered the contest, and school winners were submitted to the national contest, sponsored by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of research-based handwriting, reading, spelling, writing and vocabulary programs. Price, along with New Matamoras fourth-grader Isabella Stock and third-grader Chase Cline, won honors in a category for special needs students on individualized educational plans. Cline took third place in manuscript, while Stock was awarded third in cursive.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Cline said.

Carol Armann, an occupational therapist who works in the district and is a consultant and trainer for Zaner-Bloser, said the three students don’t require therapy from her and she actually has Cline and Price model handwriting for other students.

“You had to do your best,” Stock said of competing.

Price said he practiced his writing every day.

“My mom usually writes down sentences for me to write, and I’d write them down three times,” he said.

The entries consisted of writing a sentence – “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” – containing every letter of the alphabet, then answering a question about why handwriting is important.

“When you write better, people can read,” Stock said. “Say it was all sloppy, you can’t read at all.”

One of the criticisms leveled at the new Common Core educational standards adopted by many states, including Ohio, is that it does not require cursive writing to be taught, causing some schools to cut down on resources and courses devoted to penmanship, according to The Associated Press. But Armann said that would be a mistake.

“Research tells us that kids, particularly in manuscript, that write by hand, it lights up the language portion of the brain,” she said. “Why would you take handwriting out of the curriculum when it’s helping kids learn to read?”

Armann added that additional research has shown hand-writing notes allows a person to recall information better than typing them out.

New Matamoras Principal Bill Wotring said schools’ emphasis on penmanship has been declining over the years, but it will continue to be taught there.

“If we don’t teach some penmanship, we just have everything and some of it is just illegible,” he said.

Wotring also noted that penmanship can be a source of self-confidence for students like those who placed in the Zaner-Bloser competition.

“It is something that virtually anybody can do, and then it’s something that you can be proud of,” he said.