In our home, we have a framed letter written by a Civil War soldier to his mother. That letter has been passed down for generations in my mother-in-law’s family. In it, the soldier talks about the hardships of war and describes the fields around him near Riley Knob in North Carolina, telling his mother that “there is lots of pine and cedar and some of the clearest streams of watter [sic] I ever saw.” The soldier goes on to say that he’s tired of marching and wishes the war would close.

It’s a mundane letter — no juicy gossip about a spy in the ranks or harrowing journeys to save his platoon — and an incredible piece of personal and our nation’s history. The downside is that the entire letter is written in cursive. That’s not a problem for me or my husband because we both learned cursive in elementary school. On the other hand, our daughter can’t read or write in cursive. While she is an A student, I can’t help but think she’s missing out.

In 2020, the New Mexico Public Education Department determined the Science of Reading to be the primary literacy instructional approach. Part of using this research-backed instruction is learning how to form letters, to write. The letters p, q, b and d all look the same in print (don’t believe me? Write them down right now on scrap paper) but different in cursive. In New Mexico, however, cursive is no longer a part of the standard curriculum. And yet, the benefits of cursive for all students are undeniable.

Andrea Kiesling is a special education teacher at Alvis Elementary School in Clayton. She is a 2022-23 Teach Plus New Mexico Policy Fellow.

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