Rui A. Alves is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Porto. His main research interests are the cognitive and affective processes in writing, which he studies using experimental methods and logging tools. He is also interested in literacy development, writing instruction, and learning disorders. He and his team have studied the development of text production using an own–developed handwriting logging software (HandSpy) and developed many evidence-based writing interventions addressing cognitive, motivational, and self-regulatory aspects of writing (using SRSD). He serves in many editorial boards and is associate editor to the journal Reading & Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Springer. He is former coordinator of the Special Interest Group on Writing (2011-2015) of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction, EARLI. Currently, he is interim coordinator of the European Literacy Network, ELN, a former COST Action network that gathers more than 500 literacy researchers. He also serves in the Executive Committee of EARLI and on the Steering Committee of the International Association for the Advancement of Writing Research, ISAWR. Most of his publications are available at ORCID or RG.
Several strands of research are showing that handwriting can act as a lever of literacy development. Handwriting promotes many emergent literacy skills, including phonological awareness, vocabulary, concepts about print, and letter knowledge (Hall et al., 2015). Particularly relevant is the strong empirical evidence showing that handwriting as compared to typing enhances letter learning (James, 2017; Longcamp et al., 2005; Seyll, 2020; Wiley & Rapp, 2021) and likely favors early reading attainments. While early on handwriting is quite attentionally demanding and effortful, it is widely noticed that with proper practice handwriting becomes automatic. This fact offers a model for the efficient functioning of the mind. Research onto the so called “bursts of written language” (Alves & Limpo, 2015; Hayes & Chenoweth, 2001) showed their reliance on handwriting automaticity and has established burst length as a prime index of the automaticity with which written language is produced. Handwriting does not only promote easiness of written language production, but it also improves text quality (Berninger et al., 1992, 1994, 1996). Furthermore, success in handwriting can have strong motivational consequences (Alves & Limpo, 2015). It can thus act as a scaffolding to support the children facing the too many and hard challenges of literate development. Lastly and most critical, handwriting has a distinctive and expressive function of each one’s individuality and thus can single out the uniqueness of each developmental path towards becoming literate. In the presentation, these paths will be framed within a thresholds literacy model (Alves, 2019) and handwriting portrayed has an invaluable tool that teachers can use to foster the literate capabilities of their students.