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Hand your kids a journal instead of a screen—they'll thank you for it later

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in the storied city of Charleston, SC. When she isn't slinging sass for SheKnows, she enjoys watching campy SyFy creature features (Pirahnaconda, anyone?), trolling the internet for dance work...

Dear diary, blogging could never replace you

When I was 6 years old, my parents divorced. It wasn't one of those seamless transitions you see in warm and fuzzy Hallmark movies — it was messy and heart-wrenching for everyone involved, and it was a hard concept to wrap my young mind around.

The following year, I entered second grade and was introduced to something that saved me in more ways than I could likely rattle off in the confines of this article: journaling.

More: The fastest way to help your child perform better in school

At the time, I was a sad little girl who sometimes woke in the middle of the night to find her mother sobbing quietly in the kitchen, trying not to wake my siblings and me. I was the only kid in my class (and nearly every other, for that matter) whose parents had split at the time.

Unsure of who to talk to or how to even express my feelings about it, I became withdrawn. I started coming up with excuses to miss school. On the playground during recess, I would walk the balance beam by myself over and over, telling friends who asked me to play that I wasn't feeling well.

Then I started keeping a journal.

Although journaling was largely introduced into the curriculum to improve penmanship and sharpen cognitive development, learning how to channel my thoughts and feelings onto the blank pages of that little black Composition notebook was cathartic for me.

It gave me an outlet to express the things I didn't feel comfortable telling anyone else — about my parents' divorce and, later, my body, boys and all the other things an adolescent girl struggles to come to terms with during those awkward years.

Journaling also helped build my confidence as a writer. Everywhere I went, my journal went with me. Over the years, I filled notebook after notebook with my musings. And, over the years, I began to notice a strong voice emerge. I had found my niche.

Today, digital writing has all but replaced journaling as the forum for people's stream-of-consciousness style thoughts. No offense to blogging (I am a blogger myself), but it shouldn't be allowed to render journaling obsolete.

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I was saddened to learn that the percentage of the student population today that is not proficient in handwriting may be as high as 25 to 33 percent, according to Hanover Research's "The Importance of Teaching Handwriting in the 21st Century."

When did journaling become a lost art?

I'm not advocating journaling solely for students struggling with issues at home, like I was. Nor am I naive enough to think everyone who journals will turn writing into a career, as I have. What I do think, though, is that every student has something to gain from learning to journal effectively.

It promotes individuality. It helps build self-confidence. It improves memory recall and eye-hand coordination. It engages everything from mental attention to spatial perception. When it comes to critical learning tools for children, few are more readily available and easier to apply than journaling.

If we ditch it for digital writing, we're doing ourselves — and future generations — a huge disservice.

But you don't just have to sit back and take it. There are tons of groups you can check out, like BIC's Fight for Your Write Mission, that focus on creating awareness for the importance of handwriting.

Beyond the mental benefits (think better school performance), journaling gives kids an avenue to express what they are really feeling. Regardless of how confident someone seems, we all have insecurities hiding just below the surface that we couldn't bear to bring to light on a blog.

A journal is like a trusted friend. A confidante. It's transformative in the way it allows us to open up and be ourselves entirely and without fear of judgment, and yet it is immutable in its reliability.

The fact that it also helps kids get better grades in school? Well, consider that extra credit.

More: Teacher graffitis school property and we're totally cheering for her

Dear diary, blogging could never replace you
Image: Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows

This post was sponsored by BIC's Fight for Your Write Mission.

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