Cursive writing joins letters and different generations at Beacock library

By Amy Schlegel - August 17th 2019.

At the London Public Library, cursive writing doesn’t just join letters together — it also brings together the young and the old.

The Beacock Branch library has been hosting an intergenerational cursive writing club throughout the summer, inviting seniors from the Kensington Village long-term care home to brush up on their penmanship alongside kids who are learning cursive.

Seven-year-old Bryn Kemp-Terry holds his watercolour cursive writing project, while standing next to the piece he did a few weeks prior.

“When I come here, it feels like I improve a lot more than usually, when I’m just working by myself,” explained seven-year-old Bryn Kemp-Terry. “It feels funner. And way more nice.”

Bryn sat around a table with two siblings, his parents and a handful of other kids, caregivers and seniors. Among those taking part in the day’s watercolour cursive writing activity was 88-year-old Francine Van Boxmeer.

“This is my third time that I’m here in the library to do this,” she explained. “I enjoyed the other times I was here … just to get out and be here with the kids.”

Francine Van Boxmeer, 88, practices her cursive writing with a warm up sheet at the start of the program.

The first half of the hour-long session had everyone brushing up on their cursive writing with a practice sheet. Afterwards, they wrote their name with white crayon on a blank piece of paper — in cursive, of course — and used watercolour paints over top.

“It’s a way to introduce some fun with the cursive writing,” said organizer Karen Sealy, a public services librarian.  

“These intergenerational programs are special in a really different way. It’s hard to describe it really. But there’s something that happens when you get children and seniors together. It’s really genuine. And everyone benefits.”

The Kemp-Terry family was drawn to the program for both the opportunity to learn something new, and the opportunity to meet new people. They’ve come to the cursive writing club six times.

“Normally it’s more conversation than it is cursive writing,” said Bryn’s dad, John Kemp.

“We learned about where [the seniors] live, the bus that brought them here, Francine’s from Holland, so we’ve learned about them immigrating, a number of them have immigrated to Canada.”

Despite a wide generational gap, Kemp says the conversations have been both fun and educational.

Skylar Kemp-Terry are her family are regulars at the Beacock branch library’s Cursive Writing Club. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

“I think it’s important for our senior members to see that the young people are still interested in their lives and their experiences in life, and I think it’s important for Bryn and Skyler to see that people are still interested in learning, at an advanced age if you will. [They] are still trying to get better at life, and still living life.”

Meanwhile, Jan Dakin was pleased to give her son, Julian, the chance to pick up a new skill. She said he told her about a year ago, out of the blue, that he wanted to learn how to write cursive.

“I find it really upsetting that it’s not a skill that’s in the public system,” she said.

“It’s like a key skill, as far as I’m concerned. You need to be able to write your signature, you need to be able to open a bank account, take out a loan, start a mortgage, buy a car. You can’t do anything of those things if you can’t write your name.”

Julian and Jan Dakin proudly show off their work during the Cursive Writing Club. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

The Beacock Branch of the London Public Library is offering one more Cursive Writing Club Session on August 13th, from 2:30-3:30. Sealy says the group is geared toward kids between 8-11 years old, and although there are some regulars — new people are welcome too.

She added that the word itself – cursive – has an apt meaning when it comes to the club’s goal.

“It comes from Latin, and it means to join together.”

Originally Posted at CBC News