The development of handwriting in young children
Despite the increasing use of keyboards in the classroom, handwriting is still considered a fundamental skill that young children need to master to succeed in most areas of the elementary school curriculum. Children’s school readiness is determined by an array of cognitive, perceptual, and motor abilities that provide the foundation for academic success. These foundational abilities must be integrated for efficient handwriting and a failure of this integration predicts later academic achievement. When children begin writing, they develop from producing incoherent lines to producing letters that are more common in their language or are found in their names. Children must then learn to produce the remaining letters in their alphabet to become proficient writers. The process that children use to master the letters of an alphabet is not well understood. Previous research has focused primarily on the production of handwriting as a single skill, yet the production of handwriting entails a process in which children must integrate visual, fine motor, and basic reading skills to produce letters and words. The process of handwriting also develops in an environment that is full of letters and words. To date, the literature on handwriting has failed to address the processes that children utilize during handwriting, how these processes change through children’s development, and how the environment children are developing in influences these processes. This dissertation provides a theoretically integrative account of children’s handwriting development. The objectives of this dissertation are to determine the letter frequencies in children’s picture books, determine the opportunities that children are presented to copy letters in handwriting workbooks, measure the influence of change in grade and growth of basic reading skills on children’s visual processing development during handwriting, and measure visual-motor integration during handwriting. The approach to test these objectives is to integrate methods from educational and developmental psychology literatures in a novel series of studies using content analyses of children’s educational resources, head-mounted eye-tracking and academic assessments. By understanding the interaction between cognitive, linguistic, visual, and motor processes, researchers may establish possible mechanisms for the process of children’s development of complex skills, such as handwriting.