You can read his writing
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 26, 2010 1:46 PM
St. Mary Catholic School fourth-grader Nicholas Fletcher shows off the penmanship skills that won him the best fourth-grade handwriter award for North Carolina.
When Nicholas Fletcher does his school work, he enjoys doing it well. And to him, that includes orderliness.
"I like doing stuff neatly," the fourth-grader at St. Mary Catholic School said.
Nicholas' attention to detail, and his artist's touch, have won him the title of having the best handwriting of any fourth-grader in North Carolina.
He was selected through a nationwide competition sponsored by Zaner-Bloser, a language arts and reading company, and now is eligible for the 19th annual national contest. He won $250 prize pack for the school for taking the state title and could bring home $3,000 in prizes for the school if he wins the national championship, along with prizes he would share with the school. More than 300,000 students nationwide participate in the competition.
Nicholas, 10, said winning the top spot came as a surprise.
"It was at a (school) prayer service," he recalls. "(Principal Lynn) Magoon asked me to stand up. I went red as a strawberry."
He said he didn't think he was in any trouble, mind you. But he couldn't imagine why he was being singled out.
"I just went blank," he said.
Science is Nicholas' favorite subject and he aspires to one day become an architect or engineer "because I like building and designing things." But he has always enjoyed writing. "I like it when (Ms. Wolfe) gave us the stories that we had to write down," he said. "She'd check it, and it was pretty fun."
Good penmanship doesn't just happen. There is a science to it, said Kerry Wolfe, his teacher.
"You have to sit up straight, good posture, paper correctly positioned -- at an angle, toward your belly button, hold the pencil properly -- all those things matter," she said.
Students at the school are taught that early on, so that by the time they shift from printing to cursive writing in third grade, it's ingrained.
"It's second nature to them. After so many years, they just do it," Ms. Wolfe said.
Each year, St. Mary participates in the nationwide handwriting program sponsored by Zaner-Bloser. The annual contest encourages legible handwriting by testing the abilities of students in first through eighth grade.
"The whole school enters," Ms. Wolfe said. "They practice in our everyday work. We talk about the competition as we get into the year. That motivates them and makes it more authentic."
In addition to their handwriting submission, students had to describe why penmanship is important, Ms. Wolfe said. Just a few lines were required for the sample, which was not graded on the message as much as the appearance.
Nicholas might not recall exactly what he wrote on his brief essay, but he is very clear on why neatness counts.
"I think it's important because you want people to know how you write and how neat it is because if they can't read it, how are you supposed to express your feelings from here to there and stuff?" he said. "It's kind of lazy to do it on a computer because you just hit the keys and get any kind of font you want."
The competitive element also appealed to him, as he already enjoyed participating in such sports as soccer, baseball, basketball and karate.
"I like competition, that you get to compete against other people and see how good you are," he said.
Ms. Wolfe called him a "fabulous student."
"He certainly deserves to win," he said. "He always gives his best, he strives for excellence for everything."