It's National Stationery Week, a celebration of the written word and all things stationery. The aim is to get people all over the world talking and writing about stationery, and why writing by hand is so important. Even in our digital age being able to write by hand is still as important as ever.
This exciting yearly event creates the perfect opportunity to celebrate those packed-out pencil cases and write a poem, a story or small notes to friends and family by hand. Writing is a beautiful form of expression. It allows you to think over exactly the message you want to convey. Sometimes when we talk we might reflect later on the conversation and wish we had said something differently. Writing gives you the freedom to reflect, edit and experiment with new phrases and words without any risk attached.
So why is it so important for children to learn about good quality handwriting skills? National Stationery Week is encouraging students across the globe to develop a unique style of writing and discover their own individual voice by putting pen to paper, proving that 'Writing matters'. In the past it was essential for communicating anything but now some schools in Finland and the United States have removed handwriting from their curriculums altogether. But writing is such a personal way to communicate. Now with phones, emails, instant messaging, filling in forms online writing is no longer essential for communicating, but instead it is special. More than in any other time, writing something by hand is filled with meaning. A personal note or a card - completed with careful, neat handwriting is something that will be treasured and mean much more than a hastily typed message. Helping children to feel proud of their writing and confident in expressing themselves in this way is so important. It opens them up to a way of expressing their emotions that would otherwise be lost.
But I can't say that it's easy to encourage children to write outside of school. I for one have found it a challenge to get either of my daughters (6 and 8) to put pen to paper of their own free will and I realised it was because they felt scrutinised, like it had to be perfect first time. A brilliant way of removing that barrier is using a whiteboard for drafting ideas - so easily wiped away if they don't like it or if something is wrong. I am also a big fan of calendars and planners, recording birthdays and parties. My eldest loves to plan out her week at school on a desk planner. I have also encouraged my children to use a diary to note down their thoughts freely without someone correcting the spelling or the grammar.
At Explore Learning we are always trying to inspire more children to enjoy writing and each year organise the National Young Writers' Awards where children battle it out to win the coveted prize of an amazing trip to Disneyland Paris for them and their family - and £500 worth of books for their school! This year's entries are being judged by best-selling author, Lauren Child and the theme is 'The Mash-Up' where children are encouraged to write a 500 word story that is a 'mash-up' of two genres. It's a wonderful competition with an amazing prize - but the key thing is to encourage children to see the fun that writing can bring - and let their imaginations go wild!
Some could argue that digital teaching tools have given handwriting a back seat. But digital tools are just the way of the world influencing the classroom. That is entirely right otherwise our children are learning in a way that is at odds to the world around them. Handwriting is still used more in a primary classroom than probably anywhere else and this too is right. It should remain a core staple for children of this age. It supports dexterity, fine motor skills, it helps the brain in its development of reading - learning to form the letter shapes whilst reading helps us to recognise and remember them. It is also, importantly, a method of expression that we don't want to lose. Keeping the balance in our ever more digitised world will continue to be a challenge.
The written word is more powerful than ever and we should be empowering children to use it! Let's get more people putting pen to paper and writing more often. This week and always, tell children why writing by hand is important and encourage them to write a letter or card to a relative or friend.