Learning to write

Objects: slates for writing, slate pencil
A clean slate: a slate and slate pencil. A set of slates and originally 1 batch of slate pencils wrapped in shiny paper. L. & C. Hardtmuth. After Joseph Hardtmuth had succeeded in producing pencil leads out of clay and graphite powder, he founded his pencil factory in Vienna in 1790.
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig, Photograph: Michael Setzpfandt

Learning to write

Basic education for writing cultures

Reading was a source of annoyance, / When you do not know how and yet must, / you live a hard life.

Adelbert von Chamisso, Es ist nur so der Lauf der Welt, 1831

Writing is a cultural technique, not an ability we are born with. Nevertheless, the ability to learn is with us from the cradle, and so we work hard and with patience to acquire the skill of writing. Gaining a command of writing implements is a process in which we exercise our fine motor skills intensively and it is something that we need in many different contexts in the world we live in. Nowadays, writing is one of the skills required to survive well in our highly technical civilization full of written regulations and bureaucracy. However, there are still many people who, for very different reasons, have been unable to overcome illiteracy.

In Germany there are a great number of teaching initiatives that promote literacy in adults. Children must attend school by law and this obligation has been uniformly regulated throughout all of Germany since 1919.