Handwriting-Manifesto-image
A PETITION TO EDUCATIONAL AUTHORITIES

HANDWRITING MANIFESTO

Eight good reasons to recognise and extend the role of handwriting in the set of literacy skills that all citizens need to function in the modern world

1. Handwriting is a personal, direct and accessible tool.

Given its simplicity, sustainability and low-tech requirements, handwriting is indispensable in countless aspects of daily life — also our digital daily life: handwriting is now moving into new technologies by means of digital pens, digital papers, touch screens, stylus-based smart phones and many other new interfaces.

2. Handwriting and digital skills are both important, but handwriting comes first.

In the educational process, keyboarding should be introduced when a child’s brain development is able to support efficient bimanual coordination. Conversely, handwriting is a physical process requiring fine motor skills that need to be trained from the early years. As the last fine motor skill commonly taught in most schools, handwriting plays an important part in the development of hand-eye coordination.

3. School, university, the workplace and daily life: handwriting is here to stay.

Though IT today often uses voice recognition software, not everything can be said with the spoken word. Indeed, writing (and/or typing) is virtually always required for organising all but the simplest information. Writing notes by hand puts the process of visualising information into the hand of the writer, rather than the designers of software. Scientific studies clearly show that the typing of information creates fewer neural links and weaker mind-maps than handwriting. This means that handwriting as a form of note-taking serves as a strong tool for the organising of information, first on the page and then in the brain.

4. Handwriting is an aesthetic process.

To learn principles of balance, harmony, regularity, clarity, elegance and indeed beauty, should be an essential part of any child’s education. These skills may translate in later life into calmness, confidence, better observational skills and a more profound sense of the meaning of education. A technologically-based educational programme does not adequately address these aesthetic tasks and needs.

5. Handwriting is part of our culture as well as cultures that do not use the Latin alphabet.

Handwriting is a socialising activity. It is an essential part of the social contract that ties citizen to citizen: the writer must understand how another person will read and understand what he/she writes. China reintroduced calligraphy into all schools in 2015 for both cultural and educational reasons. In Japan calligraphy plays a central role in the education of children and in the preservation of the national culture. For cultures around the world, script is a badge of identity and a link to their history.

6. Research shows that handwriting can be an essential and efficient educational tool.*

Research in this area clearly shows that handwriting influences reading, writing, language, and critical thinking. Handwriting has also been shown to impact neurological processes: research suggests that children who struggle with handwriting are less efficient in engaging their brains when learning to write new letters of the alphabet. Conversely, studies have shown that handwriting single letterforms stimulates neural activity in areas required for reading, and in older children, the physical connectivity between pen and page seems to enhance quality of written content.
*Short bibliography >>

7. While handwriting can be a challenge for some children, it can teach others self-mastery.

Handwriting provides a calming influence for children subjected to the many distractions of modern life, and it can be an important form of self-expression. Handwriting is a way of enjoying the benefits of a focused attention, experiencing aesthetic principles, having fun and pride in one’s abilities to communicate. A page of clear, legible and well-formed writing can bring a sense of personal achievement to child and adult alike that is quite different to that of a typed text.

8. Contemporary handwriting needs clear teaching and functional models.

Handwriting needs clear teaching based on informed research, and an up-skilled and inspiring workforce of teachers who take pride in their knowledge of this simple yet empowering practice. Any handwriting models to be taught at school need to feature a coherent ductus (i.e. stroke direction and stroke sequence), should be as simple and logical as possible, and – since we live in the digital age – they have to be adaptable to the new technologies.

For all these reasons we urge the governments, particularly the Education Ministries, to choose handwriting policies, to establish standards and curricula, to train teachers, to invest in books, materials and support to favour the learning and practice of handwriting.

HOW IT STARTED

Today the usefulness of handwriting as a mean of communication, as personal expression, and as an educational tool is increasingly questioned. Will handwriting have a future? Starting from this concern, the Associazione Calligrafica Italiana held a conference, ‘Does Handwriting Have a Future?’

The conference took place in Milan on 25 and 26 November 2016, and allowed leading Italian calligraphers, teachers and researchers from other parts of Europe, to come together with the aim of communicating the value of handwriting to a wider audience.
Ewan Clayton and Brody Neuenschwander, two calligraphers known for their popularisations of the cultural implications of handwriting and the profound relationships between ancient writing practice and information technology, also participated.

There was widespread press coverage of the conference themes. During the conference the calligrapher and teacher Monica Dengo proposed a collaboration with Anna Ronchi, Brody Neuenschwander, Ewan Clayton and Nadine Le Bacq on a larger international project. At a meeting in Venice on 23rd April 2017 these five people shared experiences on methods and models and agreed that italic seems to be the most valid model, but the most important thing, whatever model is followed, is that it should feature a stroke direction and sequence (ductus) that is as simple and logical as possible. Their desire is to launch the theme of handwriting in an international context involving other calligraphers and scholars, and also other participants. An intense correspondence led to the drafting of a manifesto that raises the issue of safeguarding handwriting as a practical tool and significant cultural resource.

Handwriting Manifesto is shared by ACI Associazione Calligrafica Italiana and SMED Scrivere a Mano nell’Era Digitale.

FIRST SIGNATORIES

Gunnlaugur SE Briem

Gunnlaugur SE Briem is a designer, handwriting guru and an occasional publisher. He took part in the introduction of italic handwriting in his native Iceland.

Ewan Clayton

Ewan Clayton is Professor in Design at the University of Sunderland where he helps direct the university’s International Calligraphy Research Centre. He is also a calligrapher and writer. In 2013 he published ‘The Golden Thread. The Story Of Writing’. Ewan comes from a family of craftspeople who have worked for three generations in the village of Ditchling in the UK, home to the calligrapher Edward Johnston and the type designer and letter cutter Eric Gill. For a number of years, leading up to 2000, he also worked as a consultant to Xerox PARC, the Palo Alto research centre where much of the digital desktop technology we use today was first developed. Ewan acts as the external advisor to the British Library’s 2019 major exhibition ‘Writing: Making your Mark’. He is currently President of Britain's Italic Handwriting Society and is also a core member of staff at the Royal Drawing School, London.

James Clough

James Clough studied typography at the London College of Printing and for nearly fifty years he has lived and worked in Milan as a typographer, calligrapher, teacher and writer. Currently he teaches lettering and typography at the NABA university in Milan. Besides calligraphy workshops and courses in other Italian institutions he has lectured in the USA, Britain, Switzerland and Turkey. In 2016 he helped organise the international conference on the future of handwriting in Milan under the auspices of the ACI (Italian Calligraphy Association). He is the author of ‘Alphabets of Wood’, a history of Italian wood type, and ‘Signs of Italy’. From 2016 to 2019 La Repubblica published his Sunday column on historical and modern Italian inscriptions and signs.

Monica Dengo

Monica Dengo is an artist, calligrapher, designer and teacher. She has taught in many institutions in Italy and abroad, including the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Currently she holds a three-years calligraphy course for CIAC in Venice, where she also collaborates with Fondazione Musei Civici Veneziani. In order to innovate the teaching of handwriting she devised the Scrittura Corsiva project and co-founded SMED. Her manual for children ‘Pick Up Your Pen’ has been published in Canada, France, Italy and Estonia. Her recent handbook ‘Lascia il segno’ is about handwriting as an expression of human creativity.

Nadine Le Bacq

Nadine Le Bacq is an expert on children's handwriting. After studying calligraphy at the Roehampton Institute, London, she became a lecturer at a teacher training college in Bruges, Belgium, specializing in handwriting and art instruction for children. She published her handwriting methodology ‘Letterwerk’ (Acco Publishers, Leuven) in 2010; and her art methodology ‘The Palace of Colors’ (Die Keure, Bruges) in 2013.  In 2012 she published an article in a specialist pedagogical magazine (School- en Klaspraktijk, volume 212, 2011-2012, pp. 2–13) analyzing the various handwriting systems used in Belgian schools and comparing their strengths and weaknesses. She has many years of experience with the issues surrounding the teaching of handwriting and art in state schools.

Brody Neuenschwander

Brody Neuenschwander graduated in 1981 at Princeton University and he completed his doctorate in 1986 at the Courtauld Institute in London, where he also studied calligraphy at the Roehampton Institute. He began his professional career as assistant to Donald Jackson. In 1989 Peter Greenaway asked him to provide live-action calligraphy for the film Prospero’s Books (and later for many others, including The Pillow Book and Writing to Vermeer). In 1990 he met Hans-Joachim Burgert, whose calligraphy theory replaces traditional Western standards of precision and regularity by a new formal language, so the Eastern calligraphy could be analyzed and understood, not linguistically, but visually. Arabic and Chinese calligraphy have influenced his work ever since. In his project ‘A Brush with Silence’ calligraphers from the world’s many writing traditions are brought together for a silent calligraphic happening. A TV series on the world’s great calligraphic traditions is also in the pipeline. He has taught and exhibited throughout Europe, the United States and Japan.

Anna Ronchi

Anna Ronchi studied Visual Design at the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan in 1982. In 1989 she achieved the Certificate in Calligraphy and Bookbinding at Roehampton Institute in London. She founded the Associazione Calligrafica Italiana with five other people in 1991 and has been elected president many times. She is now honorary president. She greatly contributed to the Italian revival of calligraphy teaching calligraphy, lettering and typography in various workshops in Italy and design schools in Milan. Since 2004 her main interest is children’s handwriting. In 2007 she held the first training course for teachers and she established a research team for investigating methods and problems in teaching handwriting.

Rosemary Sassoon

Rosemary Sassoon, a designer for many years, has been mainly concerned with letterforms. She became involved in the serious educational and medical effects on pupils and adults alike of handwriting problems showing how a scribal training can be put to use in many fields. She is well known for her many books on the educational and medical aspects of handwriting. Additionally, after discovering that no one had found out what kind of letterforms children found easiest to read, she spent two years of research on the subject before designing the original Sassoon Primary typeface.

Angela Webb

Angela Webb, former chair of the National Handwriting Association, is a psychologist specialising in the cognitive and academic difficulties experienced by children with developmental disorders, particularly Developmental Coordination Disorder. This has led to her interest in children with handwriting difficulties. She works on a multi-disciplinary team at The Queen Anne Street Practice in Central London and as an advisor in schools. Until recently, she also lectured part-time at UCL’s Institute of Education where her research focus was the link between handwriting competence and written composition quality.

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SIGNATURES
COUNTRIES

Jolanta Maria NItoslawska-Romer (MX) signed the petition on the 03/12/2019.

Camillo Frigeni (IT) signed the petition on the 26/11/2019.

Alexander Petrov (BG) signed the petition on the 23/11/2019.

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