BROOKSVILLE — Kathryn Nelson, 60, remembers struggling in school as a little girl. The lefty, as she refers to herself, couldn't write as well as the other children.
"I remember as a young child not being able to hold a crayon (correctly)," she said. "I was always the last one. I had the worst handwriting. It was rough being left-handed."
Fast forward to last summer when a concerned parent asked the Brooksville Elementary School third-grade teacher to tutor her son, who had a negative attitude about school.
Nelson began to work with him and realized he was left-handed. He returned to school this year with a different attitude and was even tested as gifted. He was the motivation for Nelson to establish a new organization at school, the Lefties Club.
All the members are left-handed and Nelson is determined to help them avoid the problems she had as a student. The class has been meeting since Sept. 1 for about 40 minutes each Wednesday before school starts. The number of members varies, with about nine students attending regularly. They range from kindergarteners to fifth-graders, with the bulk of them in the third grade.
"We're kind of a booster club," Nelson said. "We have fun activities." Those activities reinforce the skills she teaches.
The old technique of trying to force left-handed children to write with their right hand is outdated. "It affects the brain," Nelson said. "They can develop a stutter. They lose motivation. It's a terrible thing to do to a left-handed child."
When they first met, she had the students open their notebooks backwards. This isn't an option for regular text books and reading materials, but for composition books it makes sense.
"Left-handed people tend to go through books backwards," Nelson said. If a left-handed child wants to write in a notebook and opens it from the back, he or she will not have to lay his or her hand across the spiral binding, making writing much more comfortable.
Then Nelson established the writing rule, no hooking.
"If you can learn to turn your hand just a little bit it makes a big difference," she said.
This method not only helps the students write faster, they no longer drag their hands through the words they had just written eliminating the ink stripes that left-handed, hooked hands can gather. Third grade is when children learn to write in cursive and the Lefties Club is a good place to learn and practice that skill.
Rachel Spratt, 8, a third-grader, said she joined "because I knew it was going to make my life better. I learned to point a lead pencil out so I don't get a big black stripe on my hand."
The activities in class include coloring with crayons, writing letters, learning fancy lettering, cutting with left-handed scissors, and creating cards — even pop-up ones. Since it is an extracurricular club, Nelson tries to keep it fun, including a door prize each week.
Nelson continually reminds the children that they are not restricted because they are left-handed. She has a remote control dinosaur they play with sometimes. Remote control, she said, is not a right- or left-handed skill. When a student won a kite as a door prize, she asked if it was a right- or left-handed toy. It's neither, she said.
Third-grader Bryson Derryberry, 9, said, "My handwriting was kind of sloppy, but now it's getting better." He has learned to cut with left-handed scissors. "It feels better," he said, " because the right-handed (ones) are harder."
Third-grader Mandolyn Rupp, 8, said, "I had problems and I dragged my hand through the ink every time. It helps me by pointing my pencil out a lot. My callus is going down now that I point my pencil out."