Eight-year-old Jordan Justin’s (pictured) handwriting used to be so untidy he could not read what he wrote.
His mother struggled, too, and after receiving feedback from his teachers about the difficulty reading his work, she enrolled him in a handwriting improvement class.
Offered by Write2Win, an enrichment provider that focuses on handwriting, the class teaches children how to form letters and pay attention to the size of words, word spacing and margins. It is suitable for children aged six and older and takes about three weeks to complete.
Jordan’s handwriting improved by “90 per cent” after 21 sessions, says his mother Mary Rajini, an IT manager in her 30s.
“Now everyone can understand what he writes. Before, the spaces between his words were irregular and he did not start sentences at the margins. Now, there is uniformity for each and every letter and his writing is very readable and presentable.”
She is married to an IT professional and the couple have an elder son aged 13.
There are now at least four providers offering handwriting improvement classes in Singapore. Their courses last from five days to 21 sessions, targeting ages four to 14. The cost for such classes can range from $150 for a one-on-one session to $800 for an entire course.
The providers believe good handwriting helps children make a good impression in school and boosts their confidence.
Write2Win founder Nidhi Gupta, 40, says: “If writing is illegible, cluttered, sloppy or disorganised, even if the child gives correct answers, due to a lack of legibility, the teacher may misunderstand some words and the child may lose marks.”
One reason for poor handwriting is that children type instead of write, says Ms Yael Sasson, director and senior occupational therapist at Dynamics Therapy Centre For Kids, whose services include handwriting classes for both mainstream children and those with special needs.
“Typing or using a touchscreen is a different skill from holding a pencil and applying pressure. That could be among the reasons for handwriting issues, in addition to poor pencil grip, poor fine motor skills, feeling fatigue while writing, or difficulties in sitting upright (to write).”
While some parents want their kids to improve their handwriting, child development experts question the necessity of such enrichment programmes.
Ms Nur Jihan Jamil, a lecturer specialising in early childhood education at Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Humanities & Social Sciences, says such classes are not necessary before Primary 1.
What is more important is developing the child’s fine motor skills, which involve the use of small muscles in the fingers and hands.
Most preschool centres, she adds, already provide activities involving these skills, such as playing with dough or cutting paper.
In fact, we might be getting kids to write too early these days, says Ms Tan Jia Xuan, a senior occupational therapist at the National University Hospital Rehabilitation Centre.
Some children are asked to write properly from the age of three, when parents should be concerned with “pre-writing skills”, such as fine motor skills as well as gross motor development, which are acquired through activities such as outdoor play.
But there are conditions whose symptoms include difficulties with handwriting, Ms Tan adds.
These include dyslexia, which is associated with reading and writing difficulties; dyspraxia, which affects coordination; autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.