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California mandates cursive handwriting instruction in elementary schools

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's take a moment now for a little writing challenge. Take out a pen and paper and write your name in cursive.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

I can do it. I know Steve can do it, too. If you're...

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I've signed a few books recently, yes. Go on (ph).

MARTÍNEZ: Yes, you did. I know. That's why I know you can do it.

Now, if you're struggling, maybe you're part of the generation that never learned cursive. It hasn't been required in most U.S. schools since 2010, but California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill recently mandating cursive handwriting instruction in elementary school.

INSKEEP: The idea came from assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, who's a former elementary school teacher.

SHARON QUIRK-SILVA: It really came from me actually using the app 23andMe and going back a good amount of decades to some family records and realizing that most of them were written in cursive.

MARTÍNEZ: Quirk-Silva says learning cursive is really helpful. It boosts reading and writing skills, and it can help kids connect with relatives.

QUIRK-SILVA: I have family members that have written many, many letters over the years. And as my kids were growing up, their grandmother was from Wisconsin, and she wrote them letters almost weekly, all in cursive.

INSKEEP: Teacher Pam Keller in Fullerton, Calif., says her adult children never learned cursive.

PAM KELLER: When cursive comes up in some kinds of old documents, family letters, they struggle to read it.

INSKEEP: So she started teaching cursive to her students.

KELLER: Some kids find it hard, but most of them get really excited because they think cursive is, like, something adults do. And they notice that if you don't know how to write in cursive, you can't have a signature. And they all want to have signatures.

MARTÍNEZ: Keller tries to make the lessons fun by using a book of jokes.

KELLER: They're actually writing jokes in cursive, so they're practicing it in something that's of high interest to all of them.

INSKEEP: California's new handwriting law takes effect in January because the governor knew how to sign it. And by January, Keller's students will not only know how to write letters to grandma. They'll have a few jokes to tell her, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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